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Café, Switzerland
by Pauline Flynn

Viewed from the outside,
nothing momentous happened that day.
It was my nineteenth birthday
and I’d pinned a sprig of edelweiss,
soft as a fresh fall of snow,
onto my frock and set off with Heidi
to buy coffee and chocolate
over the Swiss border with Germany.

At 11 a.m. we stopped at a café
and I saw her on the terrace
reading a paperback.
Drawn to the relaxed way she sat
in the chair, her face shadowed
by the slight droop of her head,
the book resting on the edge
of the table, her order already served,
she took no notice of us.

I folded the dollop of ice cream
into cold coffee, and sank
into a sanctuary of silence.
I often think of her, unaware,
how on that day she’d bequeathed to me
a silver salver piled high with gifts.

PHOTO: Edelweiss and mountains, Switzerland. Photo by Ayko Neil Kehl on Unsplash.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was quite a naïve young woman living away from my home in Ireland when I saw the woman in the poem. My background was conservative and life choices for women were limited.  It was mid-morning and this woman was out and about enjoying her solitude and taking time for herself. Something about her opened up something in me whereby I could visualize a different kind of future for my life than the one expected of me. I never forgot her.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pauline Flynn is an Irish Visual Artist/Poet. Shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award in 2010, her work has appeared in literary journals, including Skylight 47, Boyne Berries, Sixteen Magazine, Into the Light, Light Journal, Orbis 81, and The Blue Nib.