The Café Filtre

By Paul Blackburn 1926–1971 Paul Blackburn
Slowly and with persistence
he eats away at the big steak,
gobbles up the asparagus, its
butter & salt & root taste,
drinks at a glass of red wine, and carefully
                             taking his time, mops up
               the gravy with bread—
The top of the café filtre is
copper, passively shines back, & between
mouthfuls of steak, sips of wine,
                             he remembers
               at intervals to
with the flat of his hand
the top removed,
at the apparatus,
create the suction that
the water will
                          fall through
                          more quickly
Across the tiles of the floor, the
cat comes to the table  :  again.
“I’ve already given you one piece of steak,
what do you want from me now? Love?”
                            He strokes her head, her
rounded black pregnant head, her greedy
     front paws slip from his knee,
     the pearl of great price
     ignored  .  She’s bored, he
bangs the filtre again, its top is copper
passively shines back  .
                                                                  Food & wine nearly
He lifts the whole apparatus off the cup  .  Merciful
God, will it never be done?                      Too cold
to add cream and sugar, he offers the last
piece of steak with his fingers  .
                          She accepts it with calm
even delicacy  .  The coffee goes down at a gulp, it
is black
& lukewarm  .

Paul Blackburn, “The Café Filtre” from The Selected Poems of Paul Blackburn. Copyright © 1989 by Paul Blackburn. Reprinted by permission of Joan Blackburn.

Source: The Selected Poems of Paul Blackburn (Persea Books, 1989)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Paul Blackburn 1926–1971

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Activities, Eating & Drinking, Relationships, Home Life, Pets

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Paul Blackburn is best known as a Black Mountain Poet because of his role as contributing editor and distributor of the Black Mountain Review: and his subsequent inclusion with the group in Donald Allen’s influential New American Poetry anthology (1960). Although many of Blackburn’s concerns with formal innovation were shared by such faculty members of the experimental Black Mountain College as Robert Creeley and Charles Olson, . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Eating & Drinking, Relationships, Home Life, Pets

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.