It was more than the coffee
or the New York Times stacked in a pile
or the tall magazine holders crammed with magazines
I wanted to read cover to cover, or at least be named as a contributing editor.
It was more than the piles of baked bread, nearly exhausted at the end of the day
when the last of the latte cups and the little plates piled high, with
crumbs of lemon tarts, orange muffins, and other temptations
cluttered up the counter, next to the blown glass tip jar,
layers of bills pushing upward, threatening to spill onto the
repainted cement floor of this auto repair shop
reborn into the resting place for muffin crumbs and drops of
newly steamed espresso and latte foam, and a few
stray unbleached paper napkins.
It was there in the conversations between friends
who had ridden their bikes, or strolled down from the hills
overlooking the river and the ships at anchor, waiting for the tide
or the arrival of the grain from Eastern Oregon at the Portland dock,
barged through the Columbia Gorge and four dams
or waiting in long lines of grain cars at the railroad depot in St. John’s,
a hundred river miles east of here.
Or maybe the fishing fleet and the whistles at the canneries;
but, wait, that was years ago, and only their ghosts remain in the long
rows of half-rotted pilings pushing out into the river,
below the trendy restaurants and fancy boutique hotels, or the
last marine hardware store on the waterfront
next to where the ferry dock stands, only a sign telling of its
link to the other side of the river.
But, I digress, for some of the grain comes here, and not to Japan
or Chile or wherever grain goes after it is harvested in the hot,
yellow fields of the Palouse or the Umatilla River valley.
It finds its way here, ground into flour, mixed with water and yeast
and other grains and seeds and a bit of salt
until it eventually is born again out of the oven
and sliced into thick slabs of toast with melted butter
in the morning when the espresso machine is working
overtime, my idea of holy communion
on a misty cool morning along the river.
I want to come back. Not just for the warm toast and melted
butter covering tomorrow’s oven work, or the espresso
and the foam of the milk in the latte cup, steamed just right,
or even the New York Times, or the waitress who brings the
eggs and the fresh salsa and another plate of that warm
toast not long out of the oven.
No, there’s something more here. Perhaps, five or ten more visits
and I’ll figure that out. Give me time.