Appeal to the Grammarians

The temperature’s rising. Time to think about eating outside and settling in at a sidewalk cafe to watch the world go by. But beware! Dangers lurk everywhere and we need new punctuation to express our outraged reaction to a whole range of disasters. I love Paul Violi’s list in this poem. And –  when you do venture out, sit down and order that cappuccino and cannoli – I hope you have better luck than he did.

Appeal to the Grammarians

We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we’re capsized.
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
For speechlessness and all its inflections,
For up-ended expectations,
For every time we’re ambushed
By trivial or stupefying irony,
For pure incredulity, we need
The inverted exclamation point.
For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,
For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift
Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,
Or felt love or pond ice
Give way underfoot, we deserve it.
We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,
The child whose ball doesn’t bounce back,
The flat tire at journey’s outset,
The odyssey that ends up in Weehawken.
But mainly because I need it – here and now
As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, “See, that’s why
I don’t like to eat outside.”

The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum Arles at Night, also known as Café Terrace at Night Vincent Van Gogh September 1888

And here is another Café Terrace. This time just a table. Cubism and pointillism  to show just one table with a green bottle – presumably absinthe with metal spoon, a strip of camouflage tablecloth cloth and a triangle from a Mexican cigar box label showing a miniature landscape.

The Café Terrace.1915 Diego Rivera (1886–1957)

Isaac Maimon (French/Israeli, b.1951) Sidewalk Café

Moriz Jung (1885–1915)  Café Heinrichhof, 1912

Old Karlsbad: Café Helenenhof. Leopold Drexler 1909

Old Karlsbad: Café Helenenhof. Leopold Drexler 1909


Large Boston Public Garden Sketchbook: A woman passing a café. Maurice Brazil Prendergast 1895-97

The featured image is from Falafel on MacDougal by Gwen Meyerson that also shows the Caffe Reggio in Greenwich Village, NY. – favorite location for many movies starting with Shaft in 1971. JFK made a campaign speech outside the cafe in 1960. Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan had coffee. Andy Warhol came here after leaving the hospital after being shot in 1968. It is also where, it is claimed, the first cappuccino in America was served.

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