Life lessons at Starbucks

Life lessons at Starbucks

Life lessons at Starbucks 150 150 Robert Alan Rife

It’s okay to let the terry-cloth
wind blow itself through your thinning hair.
When the leaves fly past
your brow in that dismissive way they leave
a glint of naiveté, a good benchmark of
personhood. Only then are you safe
from their burden of proof. It tells me you’re just passing
through these moments without
the careless disregard you hear in the stifling
words of the never-enoughs.

They bounce in like clumps of collagen sadness and
pose at the Starbucks long enough to trumpet
their middle-age gym accomplishments. They lust
after glances but disdain the stares as somehow
presumptuous. In their strategic peripherals, table
reflections, and body language, they burn up
the fuel of appreciation. They like
to look at everyone but speak to no one,
especially the ruse in front of them just
hoping to lock eyes even once.

One skin shed in favor of a second, otherwise known
as yoga pants, they reign supreme
while supplies last of crunches, collagen, and
the deceitful quagmire of wealth. Maybe
there still lay rumors of rootedness deeper
than the soles of their Nikes. If no one looks,
do they disappear? But these stolen sideways glances come
in the luster of indulgence cloaked
in the risk of diminishing returns. Gawks become stares,
then looks, then glances, then indifference,
soon to fade in the diminishment of
apathy. The well-fitted tools of acceptance
turn to mock an unpracticed self-respect.

He runs his own Internet business. We’ve heard him
talk about it through his phone from across
the room in his well-thought out random attire.
An overly helpful demeanor, especially as door-man for
elderly ladies, helps with the compassion capital needed
to seal the deal: successful, built, kind – what more
could one ask? His secrets perhaps. How his wife’s
breath always smells a bit like mint and gin.

The one on her own stages
a similar performance, from the adoring
glare of her iPhone. It buys us all
an invitation to look without penalty, the detached
appreciation she’s come to know as attention.
The bubblegum ennui fools no one. In this tiny
15 minute window, short bursts of indulgence, the silent
praise of others passes for friendship. Maybe release can
happen soon, but through the derailments of a life
forced to surface through pain. Then, instead of adoring stares,
she can see back into the blinded eyes of another,
and finally exhale.


Robert Alan Rife

My friends think me complicated. My employer thinks me talented but at times, troublesome. God, and my wife see me as I am - a philosopher-poet with a rather circuitous journey of life and faith, the music and worship minister at Yakima Covenant Church, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, poet and writer. I am a graduate from Spring Arbor University with an M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Leadership. These poems, and my life, are dedicated to those places where life, liturgy, theology and the arts intersect with and promote spiritual formation – who we are becoming. Join me on this journey to word-land. Maybe we'll find each other there and share a story or two.

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  • “The detached appreciation she’s come to know as attention.”

    Yep, pretty much. We’re all cogs in this machine life. Wonderful words as always, friend.