Poetry Classroom: Anniversary Coffee

Welcome to this month’s poetry classroom, with poet and professor Marjorie Maddox. We invite you to respond to the poems we’ll share here—their forms, images, sounds, meanings, surprises—ask questions of Marjorie and each other, and write your own poems along the way.

Anniversary Coffee

On this side of plate glass,
the Pennsylvania sky threatens

no one, calms us with what we aren’t,
such perfect summer squall the calm

we love in morning
coffee and split croissant.

Those behind the counter
know us and know

when to save what we want,
can order for us, smile at how we smile

at each other’s drenched winsomeness. You are
not what I ordered but what I order now

across the café table, across the morning
spread with such delectable savor.

Photo by osamukaneko. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Poem by Marjorie Maddox, author of the upcoming poetry collection ‘Local News From Someplace Else’


Discussion Questions:

1. The speaker claims to be on the inside of plate glass. How would the poem be different if, say, the speaker and her love were on the other side of a wall instead of glass?

2. The speaker says “we love in morning” and follows this up with coffee and a “split croissant.” What if the poet had used the word “broken” instead of “split”? Would that lend a different feel to the poem? Would it matter?

3. Consider the way the line break at “I order now” might lend some tension to the poem. What balances the tension? Maybe you don’t see it as tension in the first place. If so, why?


  1. says

    I think that in this context “broken” would give way to a wound, whereas “split” leans toward something shared…whether or not either person is broken depends on what the reader brings to the table, rather than what the author says.

    And for me, the perfection, both hinted at in line 4, and the feeling I get from this poem, isn’t that this couple is actual-factual flawless, but that they create it in the ritual of the effort.


    • says

      All of the distinctions here and below between “broken” and “split” are interesting and important, I think. I hadn’t considered the word “broken,” but in reading all these comments, I agree that “split” more accurately captures what I wanted to say. Thanks for your good points.

      • L. L. Barkat says

        and “split” is actually visually sensual, especially coming on the heels of “we love in morning,” which fits nicely for a couple still in love despite the rains :)

  2. says

    Plate glass suggests both fragileness and a reflective quality. One can see out, through and it reflects back on self. One can see the storms outside looming and the self reflected back in glass.
    I hear more of an exactness in split. Perflectly split in two for two. Broken sounds more fragmented and less even. Split may reference a brokeness though in their patnership in the past.
    I hear a comfortableness in the reference to what I order now, a “you are in fact right for me now” quality.

    Wonderful poem. Thank you thank you. Going back for another read :)

  3. says

    I like how “drenched winsomeness” links back to that “summer squall” and also forward to “You are/ not what I ordered”, that latter line working toward acceptance of what is.

    The poem implies a long-ish relationship that continues to give comfort and reaffirms love, the anchor of safety in being together, whatever the storms.

    • says

      Yes, indeed. There is comfort in both ritual/consistency and in surprise within that consistency. I’m hoping specific examples of this come through in the poem.

      Given the intriguing responses on posts earlier in the month on other poems and line breaks, I’d love to hear more on the specific line breaks in this poem. Ideas? I tried to use the element of surprise in several of these breaks; where does that come through, or where do you read a different meaning than the one you expected? Or maybe you don’t?

      • Donna says

        So let’s not forget the threat

        that isn’t threatening, although I expected it to be. You have set up a feeling of safety here just by word placement. I didn’t notice it at first… I mean how intentional it was.

  4. says

    “……..You are
    not what I ordered but what I order now
    across the café table, across the morning
    spread with such delectable savor.”

    What an intriguing thought…now I want to imagine what she ordered and what she received…and I like that, in spite of it not being what was ordered, it is worth savoring.

    Your line breaks make me want to go write some poetry and break some lines in new ways!

  5. says

    Marjorie, I read this poem because the word ‘anniversary’ caught my eye (our 40th is next month.)
    Re: the line break question–I am no expert but will posit an opinion that I was surprised at the break between ‘threaten’
    and ‘no one’. I exhaled a bit when I read that line, as ‘threaten’ indicated, well, impending marriage doom.
    Not sure if that’s what you intended, but my two cents nonetheless.

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