I am waiting for my coffee to kick in
by Merie Kirby

and the morning to start
when really
it has already started.
I’m up, I’m wearing my blue shirt,
I ate a bowl of cereal, I took
my child to school,
the morning
is well under way, but
I am still waiting
for the call of my bed to fade away,
for the moment
when I am sure
that I am not going to crawl
back under the covers,
back into warmth
and night
and limbo
where the dreams like movies
are waiting
to flicker on my screen.
I know I won’t do it, I know
I am awake,
here in this world
where the dirty dishes wait,
all piled up on the counter,
and the clean dishes
are piled up in the sink,
this world where we don’t know
what we are doing
in ways small and large.

Our employment
is transitory, temporary, adjunct,
and so
we resist
putting out a taproot,
settling for a shallower system,
knowing a strong storm
could sweep through and uproot us,
spill us
and our unpacked boxes
down the roadways,
but still we are waiting
for security to settle over us.
What is waiting
but a state of paralysis?
We’re the man
sitting in the snow
unable to make a fire,
the fish
in the tiny pool
the tide left behind,
the flower bud that formed
just before the frost.
I’m waiting for the sun to come up,
to come out,
because it rose at 8:08 this morning
but the clouds are so thick,
those clouds that won’t produce snow,
those clouds that crouch over the northern plains,
keeping us under
the heavy paw of winter,
what are they waiting for?

I’m waiting for the light
to come back,
for solstice,
for summer,
for compassion,
for bolts of understanding to electrify the world
zapping comic book style
from one heart to another,
never say “heart” in a poem
my old teacher admonished us,
also cautioning us against gerunds
and the unnecessary article
and now my students
are waiting,
waiting for 12:30
when our last class of the semester begins,
waiting for their final grades,
waiting for these years of classes
and papers
and exams
to end so they can,
finally, join
the real world.
You’re always waiting for the real world,
I said to them on Tuesday,
what does that mean to you,
what is the real world
how will you know you are there?
We won’t be happy anymore,
one student said, that’s what our parents say:
you’re having the best years of your life now,
but just wait
until you’re in
the Real World.

Remember yesterday?
Yesterday I was working,
sitting at the table,
sketching the shape
of a simple bird and then
stitching designs onto the felt cut-out of the bird,
I was making a gift for my grandma,
I was making
French knots and lazy daisies
and a chain-stitched collar
of blue feathers
on the neck of a golden bird.
I was thinking of her hands,
fingers knotted,
spotted by years,
holding the bird,
lifting it by its red ribbon,
her blue eyes,
her cloud of hair,
I was making something,
I was adding to the world,
I was thinking
of color and shape
and flight
and delight
and I was no longer

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Thinking about what I was waiting for in the moment led me to thinking about how I wait, a recent conversation with students, and when I feel my own waiting and when I don’t. I love that the I Am Waiting Poetry Series has brought me back to Ferlinghetti — it has been too long since I’d read him!

IMAGE: “Coffee” by Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Merie Kirby received her MFA from the University of Minnesota and teaches at the University of North Dakota. Her poems have been published in North Coast Review, Avocat, and other journals. She’s the author of the chapbook, The Dog Runs On, available from Finishing Line Press, and in September she was a contributing poet to Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Project.