The Coffee Aisle

You step back always to boiling

black froth in a tin cup

to the density of flak curtains

heavier at least than the wind


stirred up by whatever

is outside exploding,

whenever you arrive

among these stone-ground beans


labeled Colombian Supremo

Jamaican Blue Mountain

robust with floral notes and balanced

blends of pleasant acidity.


After disheveling homes

with tracks of finger-size holes

left open to let a little sunlight in,

or kneeling through blood rinsed


truck-bed surgeries

while ceramic armor plates

clamped your legs to sleep

your fingers in torn rubber gloves

in someone’s torn leg—


anything that didn’t taste

like dust was saffron or jasmine

under the tongue—even dirt

sometimes, even blood.


But now which of these

mild to moderate sharpnesses

counterfeit best that flavor

when tamped into a cannon-mouth


French press here at home

in your un-demolished kitchen?

A 2017 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Graham Barnhart holds an MFA from The Ohio State University and served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a medic with the US Army. He is the recipient of the 2016 Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans, the 2015 Chad Walsh prize, and was a John Ciardi scholar at The Breadloaf Writer's Conference. His work has appeared in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Diagram, The Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast and others. Some poems are forthcoming in Horsethief, Prelude, and Waxwing.