Thursday, November 08, 2007

Alan Semerdjian: How To Read A Fortune In A Cup Of Turkish Coffee

I haven’t gone to places most people visit / mosques
churches temples synagogues sorcerers / but I’ve had my
coffee ground read.
Nazim Hikmet

She studied fate on Sundays. It wasn’t every Sunday,
but it felt like it, mostly because of the way she held the
handle, read the insides like fantastic scriptures or subway
maps. It was easy for her. In ten minutes of work, she’d
find two birds carrying white beaded necklaces, a baby in
the trees, and the curse of an eye exploding out of a volcano.
The young in the family couldn’t wait to grow up,
their tongues hanging out for coffee and a lick of the old
country. In the Semerdjian family room, the women sang
stories like gypsies while I marked my height against the
hall closet door. They read each other’s minds.

I once saw my mother begin her spin of the cup on a
blue afternoon. I remember how she swirled its insides,
loosening the essential fibers at the bottom, then turned it
over. The tiny layer of thick mud poured into the saucer’s
curves. Its descent was slow and complete; the handle of
the cup, upside down now, looked like an Armenian nose.

She, too, gave her cup to my grandmother. She, who
washed her clothes, translated her mail, took the same address
and never made a sound to wake her at night across
the hall. She asked for her fate as well. What could my
grandmother tell her? What could she read in the bottom
of that cup of coffee that she didn’t help write? What
could she unpack that wasn’t already put away? They
tried at it for hours. Hours turned to days, days turned to
weeks and weeks turned the conversations into graffiti you
almost forget is there.

I knew then that I would ask for the same treatment.
Over time, I would finish my cup in a dimly lit middle eastern
café on the lower east side and tell the waiter to keep
the change. My grandmother would be long passed away.
My mother would not be around, perhaps in the old family
home worrying about the length of my coat for the season.
I knew then that when the night came, I would put my
pen and notebook away, turn the cup over, and imagine
what he’d see.

Copyright Alan Semerdjian

No comments: