“In the Classroom,” oil on canvas, by Paul Louis Martin des Amoignes, 1886.

by Michael Lauchlan

Among students, I drink the same
coffee I drank at home an hour
ago—which is not some
philosophical metaphor. It’s real,
kept warm in a steel mug
given to me on birthday last
by a tender daughter-in-law.
To save syllables and suggest
a patrilineal union, I might
credit my son, but I can still
feel her watching me open
the box, hear her concern
about coffee going cold
on my basement desk.

If she’d seen an array of stains
on floor and shirts, she was kind enough
to leave that out. And since
the metaphor has asserted itself
against protestations, I’ll accede
to it, to rivers of water and coffee,
miscellaneous juices, and even
wine that run through all of us
emerging little altered to re-enter
a water cycle we learned about
(those clouds forming over Lake
Michigan) in fourth grade.

But what gets me, what I can’t
dodge—this memory of an old guy
standing near, redolent of smoke
and coffee, while I essayed Joyce
long ago in a graffitied desk.

omega man

Michael Lauchlan’s next collection, Trumbull Ave., is available from Wayne State University Press.