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Poetry Corner | Café Noir by Marilyn Kallet

This week’s featured poem is by Marilyn Kallet. She is the author of 16 books, including The Love That Moves Me, poetry, 2013, as well as translations of Benjamin Péret’s The Big Game (Le grand jeu) and Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems, all from Black Widow Press.  She is the director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Tennessee, where she holds the Nancy Moore Goslee Professorship in English.  Each spring she also teaches a poetry workshop for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Auvillar, France.

Kallet has won the Tennessee Arts Literary Fellowship in Poetry, and has served on the Tennessee Arts Commission Literary Advisory Panel.  She was inducted into the East Tennessee Literary Hall of Fame in Poetry in 2005.  She has performed her poems on campuses and in theatres across the United States, as well as in France and in Krakow and Warsaw, as a guest of the U.S. Embassy’s “America Presents” program.

Cafe Noir

Café Noir

I like it hot.
Your face
in my cup, your

mug shot.
You’re a wanted man.
Heat too.

It rises,
& I’m sipping
missing you.

One shot, Mister,
I’m wired
to the blues.

Heard you serve it black
& blue––
been in the news.

I composed this poem after reading Yusef Komunyakaa’s Neon Vernacular, 1993. My poem has lots of two-beat phrases, like Yusef’s “Copacetic Mingus,” which repeats, “Hard love, it’s hard love.” Two beats sings of the heartbeat and drums a story about the body. In my poem, you can hear that “hard love” emphasis in “Your face,” “mug shot,” “One shot” and “I’m wired.”

In a certain state of mind, everything is a metaphor for love. And the blues tell it best:tastes good but there’s danger, even in the domestic realm. Especially there. There’s laughter too—“mug shot” goes for the play on words, and the form tells you not to swallow too much too fast or take everything too seriously.


Bottoms up! (Another double?) Entendres anyone?

Marilyn Kallet
(“Café Noir” first appeared in the Connecticut Review.)

Marilyn Kallet

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About Tomi Wiley (38 Articles)
Tomi L. Wiley is the Poetry and Short Fiction Editor for Sweatpants & She has written and edited for media including Southern Living and Oxford American magazines, has been published in the literary anthologies Milk & Ink: a Mosaic of Motherhood, Telling Tales, Maypop and the Southeast Review, has coordinated panels for the Southern Festival of Books, spoken on the creative writing process at Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is a past president of the Tennessee Writers Alliance. She lives in Knoxville, where she is writing her first novel with the help of lots of wine, goat cheese and the Barefoot Contessa.

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