Coffee Lips

By David Ferry b. 1924 David Ferry
The guest who came in to the street people’s suppers last night,
An elderly man with a lost smart little boy’s face and a look

As if he might turn against you anytime soon,
As if he’d just come into this world and he was extremely

Wary about what the world was going to be, and he said,
“If I ask you a question will you give me a truthful answer?”

And I said, “That depends on what the question is,”
Thinking the little elderly boy looked sophisticated and

As if he’d in fact been a long time in the world
And would get the tone right, and maybe he did, or maybe he didn’t;

At any rate he went on to ask the question,
“When I come into places like this and there are people holding

Coffee cups to their lips and they look at me,
Are they about to drink the coffee or not to drink the coffee?”

He was balancing the world on the tip of his witty unknowing nose.
I felt like I was falling down someplace else than anywhere there.

Source: Poetry (January 2012).


This poem originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2012
 David  Ferry


David Ferry is an acclaimed American poet and translator. Ferry’s translations, which include some of the world's major works of poetry including The Odes of Horace, and both The Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil, are known for their fluency and grace. In addition to his lauded translations, Ferry is also a prize-winning poet in his own right. His poetic works include Dwelling Places (1993) and Of No Country I Know: New and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Eating & Drinking, Social Commentaries, Class

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

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