February 25, 2009

Camp Coffee
Thomas Sheehan

When we fished the Pine River
for thirty-some years—Ed, Walter,
Brother Bentley and I—coffee was the glue;
the morning glue, the late evening glue,
even though we’d often unearth our beer
from a natural cooler in early evening,
a foot down in damp earth.

Coffee, camp coffee for your information,
has a ritual. It is thick, it is dark,
it is pot-boiled over a squaw-pine fire,
it is strong, it is enough to wake
the demon in you, to stoke the cheese
and late-night pepperoni. First man up
makes the fire, second man the coffee;

but into that pot has to go fresh
eggshells to hold the grounds down, give
coffee a taste of history, a sense of place.
That means at least one egg to be cracked
open for its shells, usually in the shadows
and glimmers of false dawn. I suspect
that's where scrambled eggs originated,

from some camp like ours, settlers rushing westerly,
lumberjacks hungry, hoboes lobbying for breakfast.
So, coffee has made its way into poems,
gatherings, memories, a time and thing not
letting go, like old stories where
the temporal voices have gone downhill and
out of range, yet hang on for the asking.


Thomas Sheehan’s latest books are Brief Cases, Short Spans and From the Quickening. A collection of cowboy stories, Where the Cowboys Ride Forever, is now in the hands of a western publisher. His work has also appeared in many print and online publications. Sheehan has several Pushcart nominations and won the Georges Simenon Award. His web site is here.

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