toko joen*

the heartbeat
of the almost-empty coffee shop
is a river of electrons running
in its neon-veined name. it radiates
like the tobacco blood that gives life
to its corporate sponsor.

buzz, the company rings the makeshift office
of makeshift stools, displaying today’s pastries
from the nearby market. the company helps
by helping the man with the kopiah rajut1
serve four eggs in two mugs. ghost
the pepper bottle over them and continue
whispering moonlight into the air
only after, over milk tea and milk coffee
and cakes and a martabak kentang2.

in between spoonfuls of potatoes
a father shares pockets
of indonesian pop loneliness with his daughter.
she wipes her hand on his coffee polo shirt, he learns
to ignore the oily stains. he sings his favorite love songs
his wife has learned to keep
tucked in her batik-print purses.

the daughter lets the rain
hit the nearby cathedral, never mind
if the rainwater makes the neon cross buzz.
her mind wanders to an age she will soon learn
to make longing of.

in three weeks
the cathedral will play
requiem songs. she will come back
with cigarettes, the only things her young mind
and hands could wrap around,
and she will learn to hide their box.

*Toko Joen is the name of a coffee shop in Palembang, Indonesia.
1The kopiah is a cap worn mainly by Muslim males. At times, they are knitted, hence rajut.
2Martabak kentang is a snack made of curry potatoes tucked into a rectangular shape with a thin skin, then deep fried.

Benedicta J. Foo writes mostly about lonely people and lonely places, and is a part of Burn After Reading, a collective of young writers. Her work has been published in We Are A Website and Rollercoasters & Bedsheets: An Anthology of Sex in Minutes, and won a merit award at the inaugural National Poetry Festival in Singapore.

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