Unlike yesterday, suddenly, today,
on the orange wall opposite Claire’s hats
there are dream catchers.
Strings of lace
or white feathers
hang off the mandala-like hoops,
some with shiny fabric flowers in the middle,
or shells along their circumference.
One has a sequined butterfly,
while some are pierced through with arrows,
feathers on one end,
a pointed, paper, polka-dotted cone at the other –
And I dream that all this could be
for our own flowering
our private dreaming
our own lacey sleep,
seemingly illusory voyages
that we can transform into new
I practice my juggling here.
No one cares. I fit right in.
I’ve only had one lesson and want
another, the first was so much fun.
Oooh, la la! Those red, white and purple bean bags in the air
(the colors of the café’s armchair
and the French aprons for sale against the wall)!
My juggled dog lands on the floor
from the turns in the palms of my hands.
Then UP goes his biscuit! DOWN goes his water!
UP fly his ears, DOWN his tongue!
And he rolls over on the floor
where the bean bags fell
(My juggling needs some work).
I notice that the art of juggling my life
is no less challenging: juggling my poems,
my coaching; my eating, my yoga;
my friendships, too, sometimes up in the air.
(Some friends even leave. More stay.)
I juggle the plumber, the handyman,
even a contractor complete with crew,
as I tend to a house where things get tired and want to die
(never an easy place for anything or anyone).
I juggle the outside regulator, the indoor toilet,
leaks on window sills with my deck falling down the hill
because of shifting land
(What isn’t shifting?!).
Here at Café Mimosa I juggle my writing
with drinking my coffee with nodding at people,
with talking to others, and hugging still others
(but I can’t when I’m writing, like now).
UP with my pen! DOWN with my coffee!
UP the Topanga Messenger!
DOWN The New York Times!
UP in the air the green embroidered pillow
from one couch to another
to make my sitting really comfortable!
Who says I’m not a circus clown
(I actually was one)
or that Mimosa is not a circus, Claire its Ringmaster?
And wasn’t that my little dog just now
prancing between my long and sturdy legs,
like the dog in Circus Flora running underneath
the mighty Clydesdale (always my favorite trick).
And who’s that clown in the red cotton shirt
who barely saved himself from a perfect
PRATFALL, tripping over the dog leash
scarcely visible on the floor?
Who in here is not a clown?
Who is not a circus artist?
Who indeed is not a perfect
I compliment Jack (a regular)
on his brown and green
cotton flannel shirt
and he answers
“Tryin’ to stay cozy in this world.”
We all want cozy.
Sometimes a flannel shirt will do it,
sometimes a happy meal with friends
in a toasty kitchen.
Sometimes it’s a hug or being curled up
with your favorite curled up cat or dog,
And sometimes –
it’s a café.
Five pm the café closes, and,
as at my yoga studio,
whoever is in charge sweeps up –
sometimes Al, sometimes Susan –
the end of the day like the end of a life
no debris left, the body and bones gone.
And what remains is the joy,
its ripples spinning into the world,
endlessly entering, a surge, a swell into the world
which remembers the joy, reverberations of old laughter,
never forgotten conversations,
the thrill of meeting an old friend
or discovering a new one, hearing an old joke
or eating a new and perfect soup.
And yes there has also been pain in the room —
after someone’s heart has just been broken
or one of the regulars dies.
How many people have cried there on my shoulder,
tears which only bless our faces,
wash us clean like the café floor,
the clean table tops and kitchen surfaces,
water just a little like the Perriers
and Arrowheads for sale in the fridge,
special baptisms, all holy water,
like the special teas and coffees
or even the smoothies made to order.
But what remains is the joy, not the pain;
and maybe just a sip of Claire’s new coffee
has served to make it right again.
Jane Marla Robbins
A finalist for a CAPS Grant in Poetry from the National Endowment of the Arts, Jane is the author of Café Mimosa in Topanga, Poems of The Laughing Buddha, and Dogs in Topanga.
Her self-help book, Acting Techniques for Everyday Life: Look and Feel Self-Confident in Difficult Real-Life Situations, and its accompanying deck of cards, Perform At Your Best: Acting Techniques for Business, Social, and Personal Success, won the Gold Axiom Business Book Award. Jane teaches workshops with the techniques in Topanga, at universities and corporations, and coaches privately.
Commissioned by the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. to write and perform the one-woman play, Reminiscences of Mozart by His Sister, Jane also performed it at Lincoln Center in New York. Her one-woman play, Miriam’s Dance, in verse, was produced in New York and Los Angeles. Her most recent play, A Radical Friendship, a two-hander about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Heschel, has been seen in New York and Los Angeles starring Ed Asner.
For more information go to www.janemarlarobbins.com