“The Woman in the Coffee Shop” by Christina Sng

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LONTAR #5“The Woman in the Coffee Shop” by Christina Sng, which appeared in LONTAR issue #5, has been nominated for a 2016 Rhysling Award in the Long Poem category! We’re all very proud of Christina, and to celebrate the nomination, here is the poem in its entirety. Enjoy.

 
The Woman in the Coffee Shop
Christina Sng

 
She was elegant, more
Graceful than a swan,
Neck like the pale white
Inner bark of a young tree.

Her hair was onyx, woven
Like black dragon beard candy
Onto her head, held only
By a single wooden chopstick.

Oak, I recognised. Not
From around here. Just like her,
An old-world hardened weariness
That came only with age. Great age.

Yet she looked only 35,
Face pale and unlined, her ears
Distractingly almost elven. And
Her ebony eyes—

Abyssal,
Deeper than death;
Maelstroms opening gateways
To unknown alternate universes.

She turned those eyes on me now,
Staring piercingly into mine.
I must have frowned, for her lips
Parted into a smile.

“Which one is he?”
She asked, in a soft whisper.
I turned my eyes to him,
Sitting nonchalantly

Four tables away,
Counting his 4D tickets
And drinking teh tarik.
She looked back at me

With those peerless eyes
And nodded.
Time froze
In that instant.

And everyone in the coffee shop
Along with it: patrons with coffee
Cups in hand; a man labouring
A heavy tray, pausing mid-step

As if to collect his thoughts;
A prata suspended in the air,
Swirled like a faraway
Infinite galaxy;

Saffron droplets
Freeze-framed above
A child’s plate beside me,
Her face full of glee.

It would be her first taste of curry:
Her mother capturing the moment
While grandma beamed proudly
And big sister sipped her tea.

I did not see the chopstick
Pierce his throat till
The world unfroze
And the first screams began.

When I turned, she was gone.
Later, by Papa’s bedside,
I held his still hand, stroked
His unruly hair from his face.

“Mama is avenged,” I told him.
“Please wake up now. Please.”
His breath quickened. I knew
He heard me. I thought of

The woman in the shop
And how she appeared
Out of nowhere to help me.
What did she want?

And why did she wear
My dead mother’s face?

 
“The Woman in the Coffee Shop” is copyright © 2015 by Christina Sng.

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