Claudia Serea – The barista’s name is Jesus

Claudia LE P&W April 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing April 2024.

The barista’s name is Jesus, poems by Claudia Serea.

The barista’s name is Jesus

His hands are quick,
and he doesn’t smile.

It’s a busy spot close to Central Park
where people from all over the world
wait for Jesus to serve
the hot with hissing iced
and the bitter with the sweet.

He watches the long line,
who’s first,
who’s last,
writes down the names on paper cups,
and counts the money.

What can I get you today? he asks me
when I get to the front.

We order Peach Tranquility Tea for you,
dark roast for me,

and we step aside, waiting
for Jesus to call our names.

My suitcases were real.
My life was make believe

June 21, 1995

I stayed up all night, packing
my two suitcases,
thinking what to bring,
what not to bring.

I decided against the heavy winter coats
as if I was emigrating to a tropical climate,
and made room for white bed sheets,
a towel, a tablecloth,
and the steel flatware I bought
at the Russian flea market.

My cat hid in the folded laundry
and jumped out, making me laugh.
I couldn’t take her with me, though.

I remember sunrise through the windshield
and how my family stood at the gate
for a last photo:
my parents, my brother,
my brother-in-law and his wife,
my husband, even my other sister-in-law
we only saw at christenings
and funerals.

To be honest,
it felt like someone’s funeral,
an invisible corpse, hanging
in the air above us—

but I couldn’t quite put my finger
on who that was.

Waiting for the traffic light to change

In the middle of the city, a cut opens,
and the passersby peer inside:

A breakup. The death of a cat.
Someone got laid off,

or their dad didn’t make it
through the night.

I don’t give a damn! The man yells in the crowd
waiting for the traffic light to change.

The woman next to him
walks slowly, crying,

surrounded by people who carry
diagnoses, conflicts, grief,

folded, piled, stapled, or stacked
in handbags, briefcases, and pockets.

Inadvertent voyeurs, we witness
this asphalt and gravel,

those pebble-like feelings
bothering the shoes,

those tears, shed
or unshed.

We wait in a compact herd
for a sign,

anything to say
this makes sense.

The light turns green,
and we walk on.

© Claudia Serea

Claudia Serea is a Romanian-American poet, translator, and editor with work published in Consequence, The Southern Review, Field, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, Oxford Poetry, among others, as well as featured on The Writer’s Almanac. She is the author of seven poetry collections, most recently In Those Years, No One Slept (Broadstone Books, 2023). Serea won a Pushcart Prize, the Joanne Scott Kennedy Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of Virginia, and the New Letters Readers Award for her poems. She is a founding editor of National Translation Month, serves on the board of The Red Wheelbarrow Poets, and co-hosts their monthly readings

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