June 7, 2012

Confessions of a thought bandit

I know people who write in cafés for the distraction
as though their thoughts are too shy
for eye contact
with their own brains.

I’m there for the noise too
but it’s more crooked than that

I’m there to plunder their thoughts.

I’ve always done it
tuned in to the rivers of images
pouring out of strangers
peculiar silent stories
with no beginning or end.

I can’t help it
sometimes I even try not to do it
to focus on my own poem about pirates
but suddenly I’m thinking about Michael J. Fox
and how humour makes a man sexy.

There’s no reason for me to think about Michael J. Fox
which is why I know
that girl over there is thinking about him
because she watched a Family Ties re-run this morning
or she’s writing a paper on Parkinson’s
I can’t help it
like I said.

Today the café was packed
as usual
a tide of ideas
leaking into my head
onto my page

and suddenly
jammed right up against Michael J. Fox
emerged a bloated sadness
as if the roar of the ocean
was actually
every whale
moaning together
a harrowing song
of grief.

I couldn’t be sure if it was him
but the old man in the corner
had been sitting there a long time
his coffee cold by now
which made my face pinch in that way it does
when you don’t want to cry in public
so when he got up to use the washroom
I wrote a quick note

she was crazy about you

I tucked it under his mug
and fled.

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14 comments / Add Yours

I used to write essays in busy cafes when I was at Uni. Somehow the hum and buzz of other people around me made a tedious writing exercise for me (which is what I found essay to be) cosy and pleasant and full of warmth and life. Thank you for a gorgeous poem, especially the last 4 lines


I have a thought, and then someone else gives voice to it, and I can never tell who thought of it first. Did I pick it up from them just before they spoke, or did they pick it up from me and give voice to it?

It just makes me think that we are all communicating in so many ways we’re not aware of.


This is the way of the angel our little fairy. Touching. Thank you.


This touched my heart in the most unexpected way. Thank you.


This is EXACTLY why I like to write in coffeeshops! I am a very addicted plunderer of facial expressions, imagine dialogues, and overheard snippets pasted into previous-unrelated conversations across the room! LOVE THIS POEM!


Ah, yes. This very same thing happens to me while I drive. Random thoughts hit me, calling to my attention random pedestrians. The clarity of these thoughts and images can be unsettling in a way. Like how it feels to suddenly find yourself somewhere you ought not to be. Thank you for sharing… I loved this one and you for your commitment to kindness.


Your poems are magic in a way I can’t explain. Thank you for the ongoing stream of gifts you give through them :)


Oh this touched my heart. Thank you.


Wonderful images and I loved the ending where you acted as an anonymous angel. Thanks!


Beautiful Sam…another poem that ‘got me’ and made my mascara run!
Just when I was smiling along with you and enjoying the sounds and smells in the cafe, your detailed sensitivity and your wonderful brave heart offering to sadness made me tear-up with love. Thanks x


So weird, I wrote about being in a coffee shop yesterday.
In short, I was noting how I tend to stare at people too long, just wondering what their background story is–the novel of their lives, perhaps.
I do the same thing everywhere–I wonder what is going on in other people’s lives, what they are thinking about. Perhaps the person who cut me off in traffic has a genuine emergency. Or perhaps the kid in the coffee shop dressed in goth is listening to classical music. Have to wonder about the unexpected.


When a student in Berkeley, I wrote in cafes to stay awake, yet the phenomenon you are confessing was my constant companion. This feels so true! I cannot even pick a favorite line, because each time I was filled with an image and an event, you went on to add another that was deeper. I had tears in my eyes and a smile on my face at the end.


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