So here I am – my first day as poet in residence at Blackstar Coffee. This place is like a lung – expanding with humans in need of their caffeine fix, holding their breath until their order is ready. I’m having a relationship with this place – it’s a hub of organised commotion with people loitering on the footpath and on the lip of the street talking, exchanging hugs and misunderstood currency while music swells on thick lines of air, coffee machines working like they’re going to crack a gasket, kids monkeying around, a frenzy of takeaway orders and people starting their day with a hit of the good stuff.
Blackstar’s a mix tape. On one side it’s like I’m at the coal face of a machine – I can hear the machinations of conversation, steam heaving down after its been drowned in milk, There is never silence here. The other side is just as much a living, breathing being with a fully functioning body. It has a heart, it has lungs and it has a voice. Rarely a hum and mostly always a sonata of chaotic noise – long breaths taken between sips of coffee, hands underneath tables, girls stroking other girls faces, kissing and then there are the separated – the detached. Sitting across from one another as though in some sort of stand-off.
Johnny Cash muscles through the air. His American Recordings. New Johnny. Johnny’s parched voice captured not long before June Carter-Cash died and left him with a cleave in his heart.
The smell of coffee punctures the air, as do conversations – they smell of indifference, compassion, friendship. Two women beside me talk about their sailing trips around New Zealand – about the bus trips they took and how wonderful they were. They yarn about the beauty of the land and the fat exchange rate.
The sun beats down on the black umbrellas stinging my face, because this is how it is here. Hot, heady, sweaty and loud. Trucks on Vulture Street throw plumes of smoke into the air with the sound of double clutching.
* thanks to Marty and the delightful boys and girls at Blackstar for making me feel so welcome. Poor bastards have me for six months …