, March 01, 2024

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Coffee Break


  •   1 min read
Coffee Break
Photo by Andrew Brandy on Unsplash

Intro by Ted Kooser

Kwame Dawes is the edi­tor of Prairie Schooner and one of my col­leagues at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka. Had I nev­er had the priv­i­lege of get­ting to know him I still would have loved the fol­low­ing poem, for its clear and mat­ter-of-fact account of a sud­den loss.


By Kwame Dawes

It was Christmastime,
the balloons needed blowing,
and so in the evening
we sat together to blow
balloons and tell jokes,
and the cool air off the hills
made me think of coffee,
so I said, “Coffee would be nice,”
and he said, “Yes, coffee
would be nice,” and smiled
as his thin fingers pulled
the balloons from the plastic bags;
so I went for coffee,
and it takes a few minutes
to make the coffee
and I did not know
if he wanted cow’s milk
or condensed milk,
and when I came out
to ask him, he was gone,
just like that, in the time
it took me to think,
cow’s milk or condensed;
the balloons sat lightly
on his still lap.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Kwame Dawes, “Coffee Break,” from Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems, (Copper Canyon Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Kwame Dawes and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2023 by The Poetry Foundation.


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