One In Every Crowd

He would often take up
residence at the Cafe Intermezzo–

a palace where cadres of quixotic
Gen-Xers would spend their cigarette
money on coffee, and once-a-month
pre-atrophy middle-aged couples would
rove for over-indulgent desserts that
would make the lactose intolerant faint —

where he would wax poetic, Nay!, regale,
rhapsodize even, concerning the joys and
infernal simplicity of past lovers. The
in-depth palaver could last for hours and
be heard over all other conversation, over
even the hiss and clang and wheeze of the
industrial capuchino machines.

It was enough to set off a continual
vibration in my skull — right behind the ear,
in the mastoid, bitch of a headache —
making the task of bilking the wanna-be
coffee connoisseurs out of another
five-plus-tip next to impossible.

In the corner the violist played in
obscurity — thinking to put herself
through medical school on a talent
no one here appreciated, and tips that
never matched her skill — with a half smile,
as she imagined the spindle of thread and
the dull needle she would use to suture
the blowhard’s lips together.

Cafe Intermezzo, Berkeley

(Photo credit: Curtis Cronn)

For her Monday Melting, Shawna has selected a set of evil, wicked mean sadistic…umm, excuse me, ‘challenging’ words. Check them out and play along. FYI, there is a Cafe Intermezzo in Atlanta (and I am sure elsewhere), this is not that place, in the poem or pic.


Filed under Poetry, Poetry - Prompts

22 responses to “One In Every Crowd

  1. Forgot the link…go see Shawna here -

  2. rosemary mint

    Ooh, I like “Cafe Intermezzo” … love that second stanza (plus, I’d like some of those decadent desserts) … Nice effect with the italics and the assorted points of view/character sketches. But you know my favorite part is the promise of lips being sutured together. 🙂

    That poor unappreciated musician. Maybe she’ll go crazy on everyone with her needle. Ya think?

  3. k~

    As always I am impressed… and pressed upon by your writing skill.

  4. leahJlynn

    This was wonderful, a very skilled why to use this prompt not to metion creative too.

  5. A wonderful poem, Mark – one of your best. It read like a populated Norman Rockwell painting. I’m so glad the musician played viola – a much richer sound than violin!

  6. Oh, man. I love this, the whole thing. What a picture painted. But this? Priceless:
    “with a half smile,
    as she imagined the spindle of thread and
    the dull needle she would use to suture
    the blowhard’s lips together.”


  7. nice…you paint that coffee scene well and take us right there…esp. liked the last stanza with the violinist…

  8. ha. i love pieces like this…you build a great atmosphere with some surprising turns as well…the bitch of a headache made me laugh, but not more so than the closing stanza…love it…

  9. This is great. A poetic observation of a caffeinated world. So many great lines. I love that musician played the viola…My oldest daughter is a violist.

  10. Ben Miller

    I like this a lot – your words are a crisp yet still atmospheric fly on the wall that describes a place I know I’ve been too but couldn’t describe nearly so well!

  11. Excellent job, using a plethora of unique words in a way that pulls the reader into this place, this moment. Being somewhat “pre-atrophy middle aged” myself, I really can appreciate how you put this all together. Nicely done!

  12. You have created here the Cafe Intermezzo – the place “inbetween” where one stops between acts, yet the music can stand alone, or can stitch two operatic scenes of deliberate difference together – the violinist to a medical career, the smokers to coffee drinkers, the gen xers span to (so short a time) to middle age –empty nesters trying to fill the emptiness with rich deserts and faintly enigmatic melodies. Exquisite and perfectly tuned!

  13. over
    even the hiss and clang and wheeze of the
    industrial capuchino machines.

    They SO sound just like this Mark!! I love the way you used suture!! Ha ha!!

  14. Awesome write, Mark. I think I know that guy. Nah, I guess there’s one like him bout everywhere ya go. Really enjoyed this write! Very vivid and lots of real stuff in it. Nice one!

  15. hedgewitch

    This is wicked and wild, Mark. I like it a lot–and that list is so distinctive, as Shawna’s always are, that it’s even harder to work it so as to make it your own–the way you’ve er…sutured in the words here is amazing. Great job, great poem.

  16. It’s amazing how you can make a scene we’ve all seen come alive brilliantly. Really enjoyed the way you use every word. Much enjoyed 🙂

  17. This poem is going in my favorites!

  18. I’m with Whisygizmo on this, my favorite being those last four lines!
    Funny you should mention lactose intolerance…as several family members are either mildly or completely afflicted so I had a giggle on that line too.
    I’m here if you inclined to visit:
    Thanks for sharing a very fine write!

  19. this was a fabulous story-poem… filled with images that took me there. really well done!

  20. poemsofhateandhope

    some words in here that i’ve never even heard of before! painted a well observed and detailed picture….you captured such a cross section of poeple, capturing a vivid world, and placed us right there in it…right behind your ear! amazing you can take these randomn words and turn it into something like this

  21. Wickedly told and crafted with artistry and biting wit.

Some of what I write is true, some is fiction; most is merely possibility.

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