by Bessy Reyna

He came bouncing down the street,
heavy body, long hair, jacket and tie.
There was an oddness about him.
Then, as he approached
I heard the sound of maracas
coming from his pockets.
Was it candy?
I pictured hundreds of multi-colored sweets
crashing against each other,
he, oblivious to the crackling rhythm.
Along Capitol Avenue
our paths crossed,
lunch break nearly over.
How can I explain
being late for work
because I was following a man
who sounded like maracas?

by Bessy Reyna

"Watch me!" I tell Rob,
the lovely dark-haired friend
who has joined me for lunch.
"Watch me, I'll have to pretend
I don't know that the coffee is a gift from him."

We dance the tango

Ricardo, the Argentinian owner,
is so happy to see me.
It's been so long since I had lunch
at this small place
hidden on the second floor of an old building

Rob and I sit by the window
talking about books and watching
the people below us
as they stroll on Pratt Street.

Ricardo whispers to me in a voice
with the cadence of the pampas,
¿Querés un café? Do you want a cup of coffee?
I know I shouldn't
it would be one too-many for the day,
but I can taste the offer
the I-want-to-give-you-something
bursting behind the smile

we dance the tango

"Watch me," I say to Rob.
I now have to pretend
that I want to pay for the coffee
and he will refuse to take the money.

The proper behavior
the warmth, generosity,
the nostalgia that engulfs me now.
In how many restaurants can you get free coffee
just because the owner is happy to see you?

A native language coming back
to rescue me
transforming me
transporting me

At lunch, we danced the tango

I say goodbye to Rob,
turn and give Ricardo gracias por el café
before I descend the narrow wooden stairs
that return me to
another culture my brave new world.

Around the corner
a homeless man awaits.
"Can I have a dime for a cup of coffee?" he asks.
His voice startles me,
I smile.
"Come with me and I'll buy you a coffee,"
I tell him, pointing at the
"COFFEE AND PASTRIES" sign a few feet away.
"No! Not from there," he shouts annoyed.
"From Dunkin Donuts!!"

Of course, he does not want a cup of coffee.
I place some quarters in his extended hand
and walk away smiling

dancing the tango

having paid for my coffee after all.