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"I'm partial to coffee shops, brain work and poems on the page. I write after midnight. Sometimes, twisty syntax happens, and I surrender."
—Marvin Bell

Time Study

Marvin Bell, 1937

The coffee was cold so I said so. I said,
my coffee is cold, and then I repeated it
but with a variation, something like, my
coffee is cold and I said so, and then, I
said I am glad my coffee is cold because
I get to say so, and I said my coffee is cold
like the Sahara at night, and I said the Sahara
is a lot like my coffee, which has cream,
and it is cold which means I have to say so
or someone will say to drink my coffee,
which is cold and the camels are asleep.

Let’s try it again, I said, taking a sip of coffee,
and then not taking a sip but still holding
the cup and I said look at the cup and see
if you can see the Sahara and then I said,
it was in there a moment ago but I took a sip
and it is inside me I suppose, and I said then
the same thing, my coffee is cold, and also,
this coffee is cold to make sure they knew
which coffee, not coffee as coffee but coffee
as a part of the whole and also immediate
in some sense, like waking in the desert.

I write a lot about coffee, I said, and I said,
I just need to see who my friends are, the ones
who will stay till the end, and I added, I do not
take death as a personal insult, and I said it was
good to repeat things but not ideas, and I said
it was not good to repeat ideas, and I said also
it was good to repeat things, and I said my coffee
is cold and I can say so and I said when I say
my coffee is cold it is part of something bigger
that can last as long as I say it is, still is, and then
I said my coffee is still cold at this time, still is.

Copyright © 2013 by Marvin Bell. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on September 9, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Marvin Bell

Marvin Bell

Marvin Bell is the author of several poetry collections, including A Probable Volume of Dreams (Atheneum, 1969), winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize given by the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
and a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
of a windy night, it brushes the wall
and sweeps away the day till we sleep.

A child said it, and it seemed true:
"Things that are lost are all
poem
We need some pines to assuage the darkness
when it blankets the mind,
we need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly
as a plane's wing, and a worn bed of 
needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind,
and a blur or two of a wild thing
that sees and is not seen. We need these things
between appointments, after
poem
Once when the moon was out about three-quarters
and the fireflies who are the stars
of backyards
were out about three-quarters
and about three-fourths of all the lights
in the neighborhood
were on because people can be at home,
I took a not so innocent walk
out amongst the lawns,
navigating by the light of