HomeSouthern VoiceBlack Coffee

Black Coffee

by H.D. Brown

Though I don’t remember the first time
it must have been the same as last time
I saw her alive

standing over a plate of eggs she’s
about to place before me
brushing cigarette ash from the rim
opaque reddish-brown cup
full of black coffee at her left hand
sipping as the oven comes open with the
yeasty scent of biscuits

lighting the next from the butt of the last
cigarette settling against the kitchen sink
waiting for the plate to come back dirty

this was the end of it
earlier with coffee before
cooking were stories
Arkansas towns confederate widows
horrible parades gruesome deaths
conspiracy theories capers schemes
scrapes sprees and always the house
they were going to give her
down the road in Oklahoma when
she could prove what anyone would
plainly see in a blackhaired woman
of two-hundred-twenty-five pounds anvil
nose almost six feet tall

they made us choose she would say
and it weren’t no choice you
couldn’t be no kind of a person an
an Indian too back then

the smoke fades and I’m on my way
back to Boston but in the Arkansas
of my soul she’s standing in the
kitchen of a brick house in Oklahoma
brushing cigarette ash off the edge of
my plate forever


H.D. Brown lives and works in Chico, California, where he gets by on wine and poetry. He has recent and forthcoming work in The South Dakota Review, The Café Review, Glassworks Magazine and other literary journals. In his day job, he is an English professor at CSU Chico. His family is from Arkansas, and trips along the Arkansas River have shaped his love of crazy backwaters, sloping buildings and rotting hulks, leading him to make his second home on a boat down on the California Delta.

Read his other poems published this month in Deep South here

The Teacher
Poetry For the Thril