Sunday, February 17, 2008

Memory for forgetfulness

"For death is to see death".

I want a five-minute truce for the sake of coffee. I have no personal wish other than to make a cup of coffee. And coffee, for one who knows it as I do, means making it with your own hands and not having it come to you on a tray, because the bringer of the tray is also the bearer of talk, and the first coffee, the virgin of the silent morning, is spoiled by the first words. Dawn, my dawn is antithetical to chatter.
Coffee, the first cup of coffee, is the mirror of the hand. And the hand that makes the coffee reveals the person that stirs it. Coffee is the public reading of the open book of the soul.

Gently place one spoonful of the ground coffee, electrified with the aroma of cardamom, on the ripling surface of the hot water, then stir slowly, first clockwise, then up and down. Add the second spoonful, then stir up and down, then add the third. Between spoonfuls take away the pot from the fire and bring it back. For the final touch, dip the spoon in the melting powder, fill it and raise it a little over the pot, then let it drop back.......turn off the heat, and pay no heed to the rockets. Take the coffee to the narrow corridor and pour it lovingly and with a sure hand into a little white cup: dark coloured cups spoil the freedom of the coffee.
Now light your first cigarette, made for this cup of coffee, the cigarette with the flavour of existence itself, unequaled by the taste of any other except that which follows love, as the woman smokes away the last sweat and the fading voice.

Now I am born. Caffeine and nicotine, and the ritual of their coming together. No coffee is like another, and my defense of coffee is a plea for difference itself. Everyone's coffee is special.........Coffee with the flavour of coriander means that the woman's kitchen is not organized. Coffee with the flavour of carob means the host is stingy. Coffee with the aroma of perfume means the lady is too concerned with appearances. Coffee that feels like moss in the mouth means that its maker is an infantile leftist. Coffee that tastes stale from too much turning over in the hot water means its maker is an extreme rightist.
And the coffee with the overwhelming flavour of cardamom means the lady is newly rich. I can tell coffee from faraway: it moves in a straight line at first, then zigzags, winds, bends and turns on flat rocky surfaces and slopes.........

The aroma of coffee is a return to and a bringing back of first things because it is the offspring of the primordial. It is a journey begun thousands of years ago, that still goes on.
Coffee is a place.
Coffee is not for weaning, coffee is a breast that nourishes men deeply.

Coffee is geography.

Mahmoud Darwish, from Memory for Forgetfulness, 1982


Madhuri said...

A fitting ode to one of the best things in life!

Kubla Khan said...

Hi Madhuri
This is from Darwish' long prose poem. it was written during the israeli invasion of lebanon, 1982. for Darwish, making coffee was then a luxury amid falling bombs.
however, the place and geography, as always for him is palestine.
it is the exile' only pleasure, the thing that invaders cannot take away, these memorioes.

Marta said...

really beautiful :)
I have recenty been shocked by Cuban coffee, that is made like ours, with the moka, and smell dark chocholate as I have never experienced before. Climbing the stairs of seventith century building and the coffee smell coming from upstairs, made me thinking that coffee is aso a time, not just a place. But mayby I am wrong.

Kubla Khan said...

Marta, you are not wrong. everything is time and place.

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