CONSTANT COMMENT

beatnik

The summer of 1959,

before senior year of high school,

we ventured to a beatnik coffee house.

This was new and dangerous:

the dark walls, jazz on a hi-fi,

black-clothed, barefoot customers.

The waitress had long, straggly hair

and wore no lipstick. One of us

ordered espresso, cutting the bitterness

with three cubes of sugar. The rest of us

drank Constant Comment tea,

which sounded safer but still exotic.

I’ve had it since, of course, its British

politeness neatly packaged in paper.

But I can still see its weird name

on the mimeoed menu, its orangey smell

still evoking dark places, forbidden

outposts, new worlds to explore.

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