Steam and Grind

Funny the softest voice I know
Would choose as her favorite
A spot besieged by noise.

Tucked behind dividing walls
Safe from the incoming crowd
Whose outgoing charms are
Warm as milk but overly-sweet.

Here she whispers virtues:
Of coffee strong and black,
Of forty-year-old wine,
And others unheard, buried beneath
The din of ink-skinned servers’
Steam and grind.

Once I heard a story:
A Zen master spoke near open windows
And chose not to pause as planes passed by
For one in the crowd, his muffled words
Triggered the insight for which all had come:
Words, at last, are not the thing;
We’ve come here to be, not speak.

Today I am her audience of one
Grateful for the steam and grind
A jet-loud noise that buries words
Just long enough to hear
One sweet thought rise like steam
From an unsweetened cup:
“Let’s just be,
for a while.”

And suddenly this noisy spot
Now oddly wise
Becomes my favorite, too.

[ Listen to the song Steam and Grind by Kevin Healey, which uses this poem as its lyrics. The digital track is available for purchase. ]



Kevin Healey is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of New Hampshire. He writes about moral, ethical and religious aspects of digital culture. His essays have appeared in Salon, Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, academic journals and books.




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