Seattle, Washington, United States
For those who love coffee, poetry, art, or stories - stay. Have a cup with us.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

sunday sip: small VOICES

If I could give a VOICE to the VOICELESS, I would make them sound like children, for a child's voice is gentle, silver - like a star, but cleaner; stars are made from fire, while that little sylvan laughter children sound between the trees is just warm on its own. And if I gave them noise, I would make them loud - consonants tall: oak-like, and vowels rolling: green hills or silver breezes. I would give them a thousand words in a red bag called 'Passionate Yelling,' almost exclusively verbs. I would tell them that their sentences are like their hands, only moving can they change the colors in the eyes of men.

If I could give a VOICE to the VOICELESS, well, but, of course, I cannot. They must be small,

and then they find their larynx.

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Thursday, January 26, 2012

a thimbleful of marrow

I am a tutor. Today, I was helping a student understand a poem titled "How to Splint Things on the Run". It is authored by Carmen Giménez Smith. It reads like this:

"Take the nearest escape route and find yourself the fig tree. Find it's best arm, buried in the topmost canopy, and snap it loose with your one good hand. Press it against that one day in History until you make friction. This might require a binding. Compass it until it all goes white and you can't see what went upended. Cinch the edges of the wound until it spells out your name, murmurs it like the lover did. Wrap your own body over the wound so it becomes center hollow. Do this for forty minutes, and in the meanwhile retrace your steps to curse yourself. It happens, but never to you. Or it only happens to you, at times like this, to the one you love, etc.

Wrap it with silk, if it's handy, or wrap it with the best scarf you own. It should be a token fraught with scents. Hold your arm/leg/elbow over healing fire (the one that's left burning all day) for minutes you count with your heartbeat. Repeat until layer after layer singes away. There will be little left but the glowing bone. That's what you've wanted: to get back at it, to see it still humming with poignancy.

Pluck out a thimbleful of marrow and drink it. That's your final step. That and all the limping home you'll do, buzz like a desk lamp for 15 to 30. What's left hairline will get fickle in the rain."

It is one of my favorite poems of all time, but it wasn't when I first read it. Originally, I was impressed by the imagery, but less than thrilled by the rest of it. It did not seem applicable to me; Ms. Giménez Smith had obviously lived through more heartbreak than I, was obviously wiser.

Looking back on the first time I read "How to Splint Things on the Run", I realize I was not properly applying the meaning of the poem. What the poet wishes us, her readers, to learn is that the brokenness brought about by life - when it is most ugly - is not healed by finery or earthly pleasures and comforts. It is healed by stripping ourselves down to our basic state, that which is most natural and most powerful for that - the glowing bones which support our bodies.

Carmen Giménez Smith ends by reminding us that once we have found the glowing constant within, we must swallow it down and make that light a part of ourselves. So, once we have returned home, we are poignant still.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

Thursday, January 19, 2012

the daemon & the genius

I watched an interesting video tonight. It was from the TED organization, and it was a video of Elizabeth Gilbert - the broken saint herself - speaking about the stress of creativity and the alternate views we can and should take on art and artistic genius.

I was dumbfounded.

She speaks about the ancient Greek and Roman belief that inspiration did not come from within the individual, but from a knavish, sprite-like spirit called a daemon (in Greece) and a genius (in Rome). Yes, you read that correctly. Genius was not, originally, the name for an intellectually talented individual. It was a term for that creature which imparted all the mighty talent onto the individual him or herself. So, Elizabeth Gilbert stood up in front of one of the most educated audiences in the world and told them that she believes, completely and utterly, that we would heal the psyches of our artists if we reverted back to this way of thinking. I drank in every word.

We are lost. In our grayscale metropolises, our forests of mathematically certain industry, our eerily efficient psychological escalators - in this place we have found ourselves utterly without foundation. We put mirrors in every room to remind ourselves that, while we have too little time to sit and eat, we still exist.

We are a post-Enlightenment society, and that is a marvelous thing. It means that we live in a world open to thought and the free exploration of facts. However, in our mess of facts and well-informed paradigms, we have lost sight of truth. There is an important distinction. It is a fact that I am a member of the species homo sapiens, a biped, carbon-based creature with a high level of sentience which occupies the dominant space on Earth's food chain. It is truth that I am a human being. If you believe that is an issue of semantics you have already given up on truth.

Gilbert, though unaware possibly, was speaking to this. The creative process is too large, too explosive, too painful, prodigal, and beautiful to be the product of facts. Art, in its varied and too-often divorced forms, is the only human endeavor - excepting maybe religion - which makes the pursuit of truth its sole aim. Gilbert's belief in daemons and geniuses may seem far-fetched to the factual society, but is it such a tall order? She asks only one simple, audacious question:

What force keeps you from believing?

We live without belief. We reserve all of life for our text books and Wikipedia. What a painful legacy we will pass on to our children! When I was a child, I used to believe that my true parents were tree spirits that ruled the forest behind our house. To be perfectly honest, a part of me still half-believes that when I hear wind whistling through branches or I marvel at the crimson quality that sunlight takes on when it filters through autumn leaves. What force keeps me from believing? It is true, even if it is not fact.

Today I sat down in a coffee shop with my mother for a very long time. We drank lattes and ate lunch, spoke and laughed, joked and told stories for more hours than we expected, trapped by snow and freezing rain. It was slow and still, not rushed. But as I sat in my own gentle caffeinated afternoon, I watched others rush, checking phones and conducting business deals. They greeted each other with nary a wave. It reminded me of a song I like very much. It is called To Be a Dancer (I Am Alive) by Lovers. It reads:

It's all dead energies in this town.
It's all pedantry and pedigree in this town.
I needed an answer.
I needed a song.
I want to be a dancer when the music comes on.
It's all stagnancy in this town.
It's all pageantry and monopoly in this town.
It's all hierarchy in this town.
It's all self-defeat, there's no poetry in this town.
I am alive.
I can call your fake (I needed an anthem)
and I can give your take (I needed a song)
and I am here and brave (I want to go dancing)
and you're going to want me someday (when the music comes on).
I am alive.
Raise your flag, it's do or die now.

So, I don't know about you, but my daemon and I are going to raise our flags and our coffee cups to say - with slowness and truth - that we would like to believe in more than facts, that we would like to dance to every bit of music we hear.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

Sunday, January 15, 2012

sunday sip: glorified ice

Happy Sunday, Coffee Lovers.

It is a miraculous day in western Washington. It is a small miracle, given to us by the lucky providence of clouds and that mysterious triple point at which the laws of chemistry tell us that vapor can become rain or snow or further air. Yes, the ground here is white.

What an inconsequential thing to call a miracle. It is just, you say, glorified ice. And that may be true, certainly. But the giggles of children and their rosy cheeks seem far more significant to me than a physical state of water, which - itself - is quite surprising. Life is the little things. Life is miraculous.

By that logic, everything is blessed.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

--Walt Whitman, "Miracles"

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

a note from a pathological idealist

Good evening, Coffee Lovers. I know it's not a Thursday, but I felt like I needed to write something to all of you.

Failure is something we are all familiar with, if only because we are so incredibly terrified of it in the day-to-day. The fear of failure cripples me, humbles me, teaches me new levels of reverance and respect for the world around me, which is a catalog of extremity and possibility. Those possibilities span the intensely positive and the darkest of negatives.

But life is hardly ever a choice between perfect good and perfect evil. Life is, basically, the gray between the first essential: birth, and the last essential: death. It is the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the hilarious. . .

Why write this?

I feel like I've failed you all, my loyal readers on four continents, in a series of small, gray ways that are, together, an egregious harm. Missed posts, lazy posts, late posts - the list goes on. And you, you varied consumers of my desperate ontological rumblings on the deeper nature of the mundane, deserve better.

You see, I'm an pathological idealist. So, for that reason, I believe that blogs are more than conglomations of Internet files passing, comet-like and fleeting, through cyberspace. No, no, no. Blogs are journals from the road, Kerouac collections of thoughts empassioned by earnest belief that immerse their readers in a gloriously flawed paradigm of what is, was, may be. That is what I believe about Stronger Coffee. It's what I hope you believe, and, if you don't, I hope I can convince you of it again or for the first time.

So this is me, Michael J. Abraham, doing the unthinkable. I'm admitting I've grown complacent with my existential exploration of today and yesterday and the yesterday before that. But no more! Blogging is more than blogging; it is a way of recognizing being.

So I'm sorry; continue to be with me.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

Sunday, January 1, 2012

sunday sip: It's just a day.

I am not a fan of New Year's Resolutions. I disagree completely with the entire concept. A resolution is a promise one makes to oneself. New Year's is a day on which our culture believes our resolutions magically become sealed in stone. There is a better, fuller, more exciting truth to New Year's than that: New Year's Day, January 1st, the beginning of a whole new epoch - it's just a day. There is nothing sanctified or special, the Universe does not listen closer, the stars do not align just because it is New Year's Day. In fact, in some modern calendars around the world...it isn't even New Year's. So this year if I were to resolve anything (which I won't), I'd resolve to keep those promises to myself that I make each and every day, and to treat every day like a time to start over. But, of course, I'm not making any resolutions.

Join me for a cup.
-michael