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On Being Prepared / 20 April 2012

Perhaps it's the time of day, or something about the weather. In any case the cafe is empty. The man – is he the proprietor or just the waiter? - wipes the tables clean, watches over the quietness. It's like Hemingway's 'clean well-lighted place.'

Even better if this cafe has a terrace or veranda, even better if the veranda is up amongst the trees. The rain washes the boundary between outside and in. An unpredictable season is best. A sudden shower brings a blessing of inwardness, then the sky clears.

Until perhaps somebody walks in, like a song coming into a mind. An entity with an umbrella and a notebook. Perhaps a poem.

Keeping a cafe is like keeping a mind in readiness. There's a discipline and an art to emptiness. Not shoving the furniture to the side of a crowded room, but watching over empty tables. People with M.E. / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have, by necessity, become practiced at the emptying out of energies and the dropping of fixed projects. They can create a clean well-lighted place. This can become an art in itself. As Hamlet says: 'the readiness is all.'

A poem can be the slightest of things: a small breeze, the smell of rain. The following poem – for good or ill – is a slight one. It was written in the Lodge Cafe in Queens Wood, Highgate. It serves to hold for me a subtle state of being, a particular moment, until such time as I can better express it.


Notes from The Lodge Café


The man who keeps the empty café steps out
to drink his coffee. Leaving just me
on the veranda
having myself stepped aside from my life.

The radio is still on in the inside
nobody listening to it
- London’s Heart - as if it listens to itself.
Every now and then a song comes on
which someone might pause to:
like that Tom Waits' song
the way the old American sang it last night
not remembering the words
but the colour they came out
the way they span.

I think myself specially blessed
then its gone.
Light slides on and off my hair.
The owner steps back in.
Teaspoons. Birdsong.
I have left behind someone I need to kiss.


Nicole Fordham Hodges


Keywords: cafes,chronic fatigue syndrome,m.e.,poetry,readiness,quietness