The Banality of Pouring Coffee

A slow morning. The minutes, the hours wasted. I have been doing a lot of that these past two years. There’s nothing smooth about the way I drive through the days. I can give myself whiplash gunning the engine like this.

I think the rain has finally stopped. But the sky is still a uniform, flat grey. Leonard keeps pressing his forehead into mine. “Out.” He tries to push the command through my thick skull: “Oowwwwt”.

But he’s been out. If only in the yard.

So I pour myself another cup of coffee. But then: no, that’s not true. I don’t pour anything. I push a button and the machine grinds and then dumps a measure of liquid into the mug. There’s no pouring involved. No time to watch the liquid fill the cup slowly. No decision about when to tip the carafe back, judging: enough. No scrape of the glass bottom over the heating plate when I set it back. There is a whole sensual world lost. A surrender of deliberate moments.

What do I gain?

It’s mother’s day here. And for some reason, I wake in a funk. And when I open the computer and see what’s trending on Twitter, it just gets heavier. Misanthropy hovers over my shoulder and whispers that I need to chuck off all human beings and find a wealthy “friend” with land who’ll let me build myself a cabin there in the woods. I’ll find someone to do my laundry. I’ll write a book about all my original thoughts. Such an original idea.

I’m taking part in a kind of WIP course for experimental poetry and one of the participants suggested that I “lean in” to the banality that I am afraid of… just to see what happens. I like this idea. I mean, you’d think that in our post-postmodern age we wouldn’t care about the accusation of banality.

In the WIP conversation, I once again brought out the anecdote of my sculpture professor calling my work derivative. Strange which pinpricks stay so sensitive on the surface of our ever-thickening skins. It was the unfairness of the remark. I was too ignorant to have been derivative. And nothing is fucking original!

When my students come up with some brilliant idea (which they often do), I don’t say, oh, that’s so unoriginal, Artaud already thought of that. I say: See! Great minds think alike. Here’s what he said about it. What do you think?

And I’m not patronizing.

But I know that there I times I have said things that hurt. Sting. And it doesn’t matter that it was unintentional.

It frightens me how much power we have over one another. “Why do you care what other people think?” Because I am a healthy human being, who lives in a social system – a eusocial system – where kinship is required for survival. What reality are you denying?

Another cup of coffee? Probably not a good idea.

Instead, I pour water into the tiny teapot with its cage for loose-leaf tea. Orange and chili. A thoughtful Christmas gift from my stepdaughters.

I let it sit. And I feel my heartbeat rocking my body slightly. I feel the pinch somewhere at the very base of my throat. I breathe.

This is it, you know? Life. There’s no escaping it. No escaping the laundry – or the guilt for not doing the laundry. There’s no escaping the self-recriminations and shame for falling short of everyone’s standards. Of your own standards.

Maybe what I really need is a post-pandemic cleaning. The phenomenological, the metaphysical.

First I need more tea.

5 Replies to “The Banality of Pouring Coffee”

  1. “the guilt for not doing the laundry” or the washing up or the cleaning. Had a long talk with M about this last night – she loves all that stuff, and I hate it, and the guilt associated with not doing. She told me to go away and write and not to feel guilty about it. It’s not as simple as that, though.

  2. It’s rough, being a human being. I hope you can forgive yourself for the laundry and the hurting (and probably stay off Twitter for a while, although that’s not a lesson I ever seem to learn).

  3. This could be me today, although I still mix and pour the herbal, chocolate sludge that comes before coffee. I have just read Vox Populi and marveled at other “coincidences” then let them go. I can’t let the stroke be an excuse, but I do. There is a time for reflection, rebuilding with the blocks of one life, one lost. What might be build with bricks with the patina of age and loss?