War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele


the infantry lives on sugar and coffee, someone said to me in Shilo, (cigarettes too… something to do…all that waiting…a break, stress relief, boredom, companionship, quick, light two)…

in the field, huge coffee urns, giant aluminum pots, little percolators on camp stoves gurgling java outside the sappers’ LAV, 24 hr urn in the TOC, mom’s coffee maker in the LAV they call the Winibago (the LAV that serves up grill cheese sandwiches, is kitted up with bags and bags of sweets, organized by brands and categories), little glass drip pots at RQ, there’s probably an espresso maker out there too if you look hard enough…

and the guys in Admin… prima coffee… just hang for an hour and you’ll see who drifts in, “hey, any coffee left?”, the newly-pressed lieutenant says, draws up a chair… and sometimes it’s Tim’s, and sometimes something gourmet (but don’t tell anyone, that’s just for solo all nighter’s)…

o coffee…

so I’m home again. some semblance of routine. I drop into my regular, Cafe Fantastico, a casual little coffee bar with old couches, old chairs with saggy upholstery and lots of stories… art on the walls, lots of things to read, young ones behind the bar, smiles, tattoos, coffee beans roasting in the back room, they smell of toffee and smoke and black #1 earth … and a guy leans over to me from across the bar and says, “you’re back, did you get my email, the one about coffee? I’m Dave” and he tells me that he read about me and what I’m doing… and I say yes, I recall somewhere in the huge pile of emails and messages, something about coffee…

so we talk and he says, “when you go away again, I want to send coffee with you, a little bit of home to take with you”… shakes my hand… it’s so unexpected…

and you know what? to me, his offer, his handshake, his words, all mean more to me than the BBC or CBC or Globe and Mail, or t.v. or radio or any of that stuff… because that’s all white noise… but the offer to send coffee… understanding of what I’m trying to do and friendship… now that’s a gift

from May Day


o M.,
this, the worst time of day. not night not morning. but 5 p.m. the shoulder time when light is soft. the perfect angle. and I would give anything.
to see you walk in. (to my office – the brocade circa 1975 green couch @ Café Fantastico)

I don’t look at the pix you sent. much. you on parade. Sweden? Bosnia? Golan Heights? now patrol. Panjawaii.

the flags. the march. your eyes straight. I’ve put them in the back of my moleskine notebook. safe.

work goes. dance, okay. rehearsal in ½ hr. my tangos will do but my bulerias is half-way. across the Atlantic. hope it gets here before I go on stage. it seems I dance with only half my body these days.

listen, this afternoon. I walked into a little shop. west coast hippy. incense, clothes with tiny mirrors. you know the kind. (or maybe you don’t). I bought you a string of Tibetan prayer flags. I’m sending it with the next Roto. (with your beef jerky don’t worry).

I bought a string for me too. wrote your initials on them. indelible ink. hung them high above my roof.

promise me. M. promise me. when you get them. with your twizzlers and your Sweet Orient (my treat) you’ll unroll them. slowly. hold them between your fingers. hold them to your face. smell them. keep them somewhere.


3 Comments (Closed)


Touch of the GM Hopkins at the start, S – ‘dark not-day’ seems to be your favourite time at the moment. How did you find the transition from embeddedness to ‘normal’ life? I used to do oil rig work and found the two worlds difficult to integrate. I wonder if you feel the same. I’m with Colin on the sonnets!

Nov 06 2008 · 14:55


transitions are always difficult… I can’t imagine what it is to be
a soldier,
a soldier returned from war,
a soldier returned from war altered
by what he has seen, what he has had to do, what he carries in his body and brain…

and the soldier’s family, they have changed too, yet strangely, seem the same…
and though I am just a witness, I too am a different person, far different, than the one that went away

Nov 07 2008 · 09:52

katherine jane

Thanks for the verbal snapshots, Suzanne. And for digging deeper. It’s hard to be doing such an important service, as these soldiers are, and to be misunderstood and even reviled.

You’re a witness to their toil and tears, to their challenges and victories.

Thanks for continuing your singing with the boys!

Nov 08 2008 · 09:04

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled coffee. It was posted here on November 05, 2008.


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