Coffee shop photo by David Shankbone (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
How strangely innocent I was a few days ago.
How buoyant I felt before November.
How queer this weather is, warm, cold, warm.
At my usual stops, the coffee shop, the gym,
I’ve been struck by the disappearance
of the regulars.
Their names, birds never caught.
At least the staff at the deli wears name tags.
So what happened to Minh? Where’s
Arturo? And the three of us would
chat for a bit
our accents sideswiping
over a logjam of latte orders and jelly donuts.
Aleppo used to be a lovely place, Minh said
with an ache as if she had been born there.
Count the days, the hours, until any store closes for good.
That’s New York for you,
New Yorkers like to think. Here today and…you know the rest.
This seems silent and precise, not to say fast.
Have I also cruised past the tipping point?
I repeat my order to some unibrowed youngster,
Hot, light, one Splenda. Not the pink packet, the yellow one.
Poor kid. Not his fault I’m feeling hostile, scared.
Tomorrow repeat the order.
Arturo was my favorite
though he always regarded
everybody with flared nostrils,
gorgeous brown eyes half-way shut. Until he got to know you, that is.
Ever get the feeling you’re about to become invisible?
he asked me once. I wanted to pull off his hat and play
with his black hair. Tell him not to worry
like I believed it.
How he hoped to find a crown
for his girl back in Morelos. A crown?
Meanwhile a CGI princess Leia whispers at the end of Rogue One,
Where did Arturo and Minh go? They must be OK
I tell myself. Found a job elsewhere.
And the regulars, well, just moved away.
But if I could
tell Arturo, wait, tell Carrie too
the snowflakes that dusted my head
were not even enough for a tiara.
Guillermo Filice Castro is a poet and photographer. He's the author of a chapbook of poems Agua, Fuego (Finishing Line Press, 2015). Recent work appears in Tarpaulin Sky, The Tishman Review, Glass Poetry, The Brooklyn Rail and others. A native of Argentina, he lives in New York City.