Saturday, October 4, 2014
"Coffee Shop" by Jewel (And My Commentary)
Young girls wrap themselves tightly
in bright smiles and denim,
no more patent leather
and pigtails here.
They suck on coffee,
with great indifference,
their young thighs
weapons they have cocked,
the potency which lies
Tight, dark, dark blue
and lonely smiles like
I first read this poem from Jewel's singular publication of poetry A Night Without Armor years ago. Actually, I was just breaching 'adulthood,' at the tender, inexperienced age of barely 18 when a fare-weather friend gave me the book as a parting gift.
I loved this poem back then, it gave me silly-girl daydreams of exotic cities and homely coffee-shops, artists niches where (once I moved my life to somewhere like Seattle) I would soak myself into a creative atmosphere and morph into some other girl. Perhaps a girl who knew enough about life to actually write something legible.
I recently reread this collection of poetry (at the tender age of 33) and these words (though I still love the poem) resonated with a completely new view. Maybe I'm more 'worldly' or 'experienced' or 'distinguished' or maybe just 'bitter' enough to read these words and apply them to the history of my own girlhood, my own growth into the woman I've become.
I can remember my first visits to campus coffee shops. I'd languish, elbows propped against fancy marble table-tops, arrange my notebooks and pens, and then await enough inspiration to write. I suppose this is when I began to observe other people. I'd sort of steal details from their lives: the way they looked, floating pieces of conversation and random words they spoke. I'd weave them into pieces of poetry/prose. Some days I'd merely take notes, other days I'd write so fervently, words of poems I never knew could come from inside me just blooming from the hands of strangers, intellectual girls in glasses who nodded their heads at my notebooks as if in understanding.
And we can't forget the long-haired boy who sat across the cafe one evening, haphazardly strumming the guitar and singing boy-band love songs for a group of admiring females who gathered quickly. I was not one of those girls, though I smiled at him from across the room, understanding his ploy for attention, aware his lack of talent and creativity. I think he knew I knew as he winked at me while probably simultaneously trying to make a mental decision about which of these silly chicks he'd sleep with.
I guess back then (as I roamed Borders and studied the 'real' poets, devoured books and learned to brew my own coffee) I began to mentally piece together what I perceived the 'poets' did. I fervently read memoirs like The Only Girl In The Car and Lucky, the book Summer Sisters and The Journals of Sylvia Plath. The stories within the walls of such books made me feel as if there were really other girls out there like me. Other creative, book-wormish girls who dreamed with their books and their pens, who wanted to be sophisticated but probably looked more like posers dressed in tight jeans and black shirts, hipster beanies sweating their hair wet.
But I believe knowing such people existed, and reading their works (I devoured Anne Sexton, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath and dived into the lyrical genius of Ani DiFranco and Tori Amos) gave me enough courage to inhabit this eccentric, often-times weird, other-worldly woman whom was pushing herself from my insides. Even if I had trouble finding women in my immediate atmosphere who shared these characteristics with me, even if I stood out like a sore thumb in a roomful other students, even if I was misunderstood and felt so deeply that everything either elated or deeply scarred me...it was all okay. I was okay. I would be okay morphing into the crazy, all-over-the place poet/writer/artist/ twenty-something I was meant to be.
So, while re-reading this poem,
I see myself in the tight bell-bottom jeans,
totally oblivious to the fact that
my young curves might be provocative,
occupying a bar-stool,
nursing my first bitter cup of espresso
and wondering if I looked cultured enough
to even belong in a campus cafe.
Now-days I walk in like I own the place.