Book Review

Ellaraine Lockie, Coffee House Confessions, Silver Birch Press, 2013

by R.A. Davis

Open mike at XYZ Coffeehouse in Somewhere, Anywhere USA is what flashed through my mind as I read each poem in Coffeehouse Confessions by Ellaraine Lockie. I even got a glimpse of the movie Love Jones where poets serenaded lovers and others through words and thoughts meant to inspire much more.

As I traveled the world with Ms. Lockie, enjoying coffee, atmosphere, and words in such places as Osaka, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Mexico, and London, I am reminded that inspiration knows no limits. In Man about Town, that inspiration is found in:

His stride...a study in meter
And any female looking his way
from the Leaf and Bean
as he crossed the street
would become an immediate student

Black leather blazer
Body cigar straight in blue jeans
tucked into boots
Dark hair growing out of his halfway
unbuttoned tan shirt
Two-day stubble and longhair look
of a GQ model

...four trash cans...
Toasting other people's excess
with paper cups
In moves as fluid as the lattes
chai and chocolate milks
that slide down his throat
He's...a fine wine connoisseur
Who couldn't be bothered to replace
hiking boots with soles wallet-thin
Whose domestic help forgot to hem
the lining that hangs below black leather
Or wash the once-white shirt
that wears the foods he's scavenging

...he's the city sanitation engineer
conducting a field study
Who sets aside samples of pizza
submarine sandwiches and chicken wing bones
Scoop[ing] it all with bureaucratic certainty
into a threadbare backpack
...not one of us watching
wish[ing] to humble him
with the truth of a handout

How poetic is it that even a (seemingly) homeless man can produce such beautiful words one minute, then scorn the next, as we see in Ashes, where:

...Mountain Man returns from the direction
of the Mobile station with a pack of Camels
Rips off the plastic and lights one up
Burning with it the sandwich I was about to buy him
and the conscious that forbade my vanilla bean scone...

In Travel Writer, I empathize with the author because I, too, have felt myself in situations where:

He scans my face
as I sit at a Starbucks table
Stockbroker in a Silicon Valley suit
Finishes his cell phone services with I love you
Then looks up my skirt
[as] I fix eyes colder than iced coffee
on his two faces

watching as:

The old man on my left
has been trying to read my writing
for the last ten minutes...

And the woman two tables to my right
with cherub cheeks and friendly demeanor
...condemn me, maybe not to hell
But surely to the Miss Manners' column
in the newspaper...

And as I sit in my chair, chai tea latte at the ready, I feel the rhythm of the words in Coffeehouse Confessions, as:

The woman sitting next to me in Starbucks says
I wish I were as dedicated to something
as you to whatever you do here everyday

(White Noise and Other Muses) 

while smiling at thoughts of:

...Little does she know I'm eating her alive
Dissecting her and spitting her out on paper
That I'm bulimic about everything
surrounding me in any public place...

(White Noise and Other Muses) 

Isn't this what we as poets do? Sit around public places, listening to the conversations and white noise, contemplating the people, and constructing and deconstructing our surroundings for the next poem that fills our page? Ms. Lockie does this so eloquently throughout her book that I want to travel to the same coffeehouses she has been to, just to see if the words that fill my page are as compelling...or my own version of life. Who can be sure?

What I do know is whether I am in Italy, America, or some other remote country drinking coffee and writing poetry, the language may be different, but through Ms. Lockie's insights we see that the meaning behind the words is all wonderfully the same.

R.A. Davis owns and operates Altered Words, offering freelance editing, proofreading, and typing services. In addition to her business ventures, Ramona has facilitated poetry writing workshops through the DC Public Library for youth in underprivileged communities, holds a Certificate in Advancing Youth Development, owned an after school program to benefit youth in at risk areas of Baltimore, MD. She has also done volunteer editing for a variety of authors and owns an organization (Chained With Love) that donates handmade, crocheted scarves to homeless women and their families in the Dane County area of Wisconsin.