In Eating Heaven, I tried to say something about the café and the role its tables play in our cities and our lives. Then I find the collected poems of Irish poet Michael O’Siadhail, and discover he says it with more beauty and fewer words. I tip my hat.
Lunchtime in a London Café
Table by table the café fills
till talk and the clap of plates
bulge with well-being; a dark
waitress’s patchwork skirt
hurries behind the counter;
every face under the sun peers
at the window menu, more
voices join the steamy pentecost.
Here in the metropolis nothing
shocks. Out of its huge anonymity
worlds of strange gossip crowd
this lunch-time café. And I’m in love
with its mystery, the peculiar rapture
of life à la carte. The window mists;
after wine, the Basque in the corner
turns his smokey eyes on the waitress.
Outside the door, the buses shriek,
rush and judder; a city’s jamboree,
hope and haphazard, limitless
chances, choices wait. Sitting
here I know I’ve felt the throb
of Jerusalem or Rome or any city
yet to come, where there’s a café
and we, citizens all, break bread.
Michael O’Siadhail, Collected Poems, Bloodaxe, 2013, 183.