Emily K. Michael
In gentle tones the coffee guy asks:
"What can I get you today?" I want
a hazelnut latte, iced. "No whipped cream."
We parallel down the counter. Sugar packets
and napkins on my side, spurts and gurgles on his.
"It’s almost Friday," he calls, voice sliding around
the hiss and splash of preparation.
"Today is my Friday.
I don’t teach tomorrow."
A hair’s breadth of hesitation:
"What do you teach?"
I toss my words through the coffee sounds: "Freshman writing. 1101, 1102."
I hear him stalling
by the steam wand – a glitch in his mechanics.
I’ll admit, I dropped that verb
to freak him out.
There’s something in his deference
I need to break.
"Wait, how do you – how do you read?"
* * *
The smell of old sheet music steeps me
in the dusky light of rehearsals
at the cold church, aisles lined with echoes,
pews covered in scratchy monochrome.
Fragments of sound cling to these pages
in my hands – the score barely visible
beneath clumsy annotations.
In the choir pit ringed with straight-backed chairs,
solitary lamps shone on worn hymnals.
We turned thin pages – waterstained, crinkling –
mixed voices. A man sat at the keys – a tenor
who taught me to play Mozart in those difficult
middle school years. But he left his seat
to a player of preludes,
She took me to sing in St. Augustine –
gave me an eighteenth-century solo
that circled the high B-flat.