Tea for Two

My writing friend Violet recently posted a poem from a challenge we took on together early last year, to write an ekphrastic poem (inspired by a photo/or work of art).  The photo was the featured image above found in this Photo Series by the Boston Globe, Shadows and Silhouettes. (photo number 20 – Rahmut Gul/Associated Press  An Afghan man prepares for tea as he waits for customers in Kabul, Afghanistan.)

You can read Violet’s poem here and mine below.  It is an interesting activity to see the uniqueness of the response to the same photo — no doubt, every poet would look at different aspects.  Mine is rather more lengthy than hers as I imagined a sentimental relationship between the river and the man, having shared so many morning together preparing the tea.  So my poems were written as a duet, the same form applied to each, similar images looked at from the two perspectives — perhaps the deep baritone of the man and still clear tenor of the river twisting up together in call and response, meandering together.

To the River

This morning you flow sluggishly
or is it my tea stained vision
too muddy sweet to separate
more than one or two stolen moments
between customers, moments that etch
this landscape onto my retina so I see
its eerie opposite when I close my eyes – and dreaming
return here, combing your shores
for burnable jetsam, stoking the fire
as the smoke snakes about my aching
hands polishing the brass kettles
so they sparkle like you do
in the sun…

The first cup is for us, looking toward
the east, warmth seeping into my hands
as they cup the honey mulled pungency
that somehow braces me for the day.

Half I swallow with gratitude and half
I toss as libation to your good friendship.

To the TeaMaker

This morning you move sluggishly
or is it just that my muddy waters
have passed here so many times you inhabit
your tea making tasks all at once – a snapshot.
After all, your presence is the flash of sun
the shoots over the mountains in the morning.
You will disappear into my long flowing memory like a dream
I will want to remember you:
combing for fuel and then crooning
a soft low song that kindled fire
and smoke, spicing the air hovering
over me, those gleaming kettles, your eyes
mimicking the sun…

The first cup is for us, as I flow eastward
where the sun rises, warmth
streams back to me and from your gaze
that somehow braces me for the day.

I receive your offering each morning, mingle it,
layer into sediment, your memory.

© 2017 – Laurel Archer


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