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.