Zumwalt Poems Online

Beach Café

Beach Café

Chiming glassware
Lusty laughter and liquid murmurs
Midsummer night in Balboa
In the dream-dark
Charcoal curls spiral from the tables
Writhing arabesque and rococo
Like nomads’ campfires.
Detached
Sphinx-like
From a darker corner enclave
I survey the scene sucking my mug of java
Black and bitter.
The bartender
Grins through a wizard’s beard
Pouring, mixing, performing
For the waterfront gentry
While a waitress weaves a winding honey dance
With ball bearing grace bearing trays of beers
Through the clustered tables.

The locals
Burned and blonde
Gleam polished keyboard smiles
Brandish biceps and exhibit cleavage
Perched like cheetahs poised for game.
Or, Heineken in hand, they prowl in puka shells
Floral shirts and sandals
Sporting the seashore regalia
And predatory as the alligators embroidered
Above their hearts.

My focus withdrawn
I study the brown pit of my cup
Embarrassed by my suppressed, cynical envy
And my incipient paunch
Which spills below my sternum and sits
Like Signal Hill
Above my belt.
I spin theories about Their intellect or character
Judging smugly
But knowing, too
That the judgment’s just jive
And petty consolation
For my social shortcomings
A shoring up of a shaky soul
Discomfited by the competition and the game.
So I stroke my moustache
That drooping display of virility
And stay stoic behind an Agamemnon mask
Listening to an Aegean known only to me
Aloof and passive
As a walrus on an offshore rock.

The band
Back from break and beer
Slide into the electric haze
Tune up with playful foreplay before performing
Then splash emotion in the whisky illumination
The bassist
Measures out time like a beating heart, while
The drummer—a clock—
Clips it off
As the sax man belies his horn’s brassy brilliance
And cries the blues.

Behind the dancing tobacco curtain
I am anchored at my corner table
Cloistered in a turtleneck and straight leg jeans
An anachronism looking
For an age to join.

— Zumwalt (1978)

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Comments on: "Beach Café" (20)

  1. i want to be there…oh sigh..
    you had me with the sax man of course.. i can hear him…i can smell the sea and the tobacco curtain and oh i feel the jazz… sigh…wanna cry the blues…

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  2. “Listening to an Aegean known only to me”–this was me from first grade through about 10th grade! And they didn’t even have live music or any beer in that school! This is a MOST masterful, carefully written poem telling of being alone in a crowd. Far too common an experience! This guy needs to know it is NOT a factor of being an “elder”!

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  3. That is so amazing you have me there choking on the smoke, desiring a whisky and even tough I have not smoked for over 10yrs I would accept a cigarette and a chance to set the world to right …no doubt it is raining outside so I could linger.

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  4. Nicely written – the whole poem is sensuous and rich with imagery in every line!

    And I love the subtle way you connected your mustache to the walrus on his rock:

    So I stroke my moustache
    That drooping display of virility
    And stay stoic behind an Agamemnon mask
    Listening to an Aegean known only to me
    Aloof and passive
    As a walrus on an offshore rock.

    (It reminded me – my first husband had a mustache in the ’70’s too – and we used to joke that he looked like a walrus…. 🙂 )

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  5. Excellent. What a scene you describe…with sounds, touch, taste, smell…so well done. I can relate to the being in the corner…

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  6. This is truly brilliant! I can “feel” it, as though I’m “there!” The imagery is amazing! 🙂

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  7. you engage all the senses quite evocatively. very witty ending, too.

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  8. I really like this poem alot. It is honest, rich and so beautifully expressed.

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  9. Exquisite!

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  10. Love the energy and imagery of this poem. Thanks, my friend. xo

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  11. sensual – warm – musical – cozy – makes me want to escape the cold and run towards the hot .
    beautiful work .

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  12. an abstract descrption of an event at a cafe, nearly like a movie, loved the play with words and the picture painted (~_~)

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  13. love the musical cadence, especially in regards to the band!

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  14. This feels like the opening to a movie, drawing you in, seeing the scene, the characters, all through the narrator’s eyes – “people-watching” heaven with a hint of drowsy bittersweet melancholia. Love it.

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  15. For me this has a certain familiarity about it. I think I’ve been there. Great sense of place.

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  16. claudia, granbee, willowdot21, Betty, Bodhirose, lscotthoughts, dani, unsungpoet, kate58, Jackie, Cat, zendictive, bholy08, hollyannegetspoetic and Victoria,

    Thanks for visiting, reading and the wonderful comments!

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  17. we do look scornfully at children of nature.

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  18. Sharmishtha,

    Thanks for reading and commenting and visiting and commenting on some of the older posts!

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  19. Inspired and inspiring!

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  20. Ahh, if only. . . my paunch were not so large and my beard so gray. . . I relate. I relate, but the truth is you are a poet, and poet’s, sitting at the corner table as life swirls in kaleidoscopic glory around them, sees not only themselves, but the swirl beneath the color, and your words transcend us into another dimension of thought, consideration, self reflection, and emotion.

    Like

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