Poetic inspiration in a Berkeley coffee shop

The Beanery, where Karin Evans has written poetry

Karin Evans is a Berkeley writer and the author of The Grace to Race, the story of Sister Madonna Buder, the 80-year-old world  champion triathlete, and The Lost Daughters of China.

While working towards a MFA in poetry, Evans spent a lot of time writing in different venues in Berkeley. Here are two poems she wrote while writing at The Beanery, the coffee shop on College Avenue near Ashby.

Grounds

Quiet cafe with its whispering people
whiff of coffee, muted thrum of thinking.
A woman with her tome on Chinese medicine
scratches out her notes in
red calligraphy. A man with thick
manila envelope spills out his papers
etched with numbers from the money men.


On a closed book titled Natural Goodness
a dark-haired girl lays down her head,
writing sideways in her journal, while
her tablemate, deep into his text
on literary criticism, absently fingers the
muffin crumbs she’s left upon her plate.

Distance

At the next table in the dimly lit cafe
the young pair huddles closer. He speaks with a
touch of foreign accent, emphatically,

his dark brown eyes on fire. She listens rapt.
And so do I. Let’s say the V is zero
I think he says, and there is a central extension,

like V plus one, whatever you want to call it.
She nods, ardently. He rattles off another string
of words and numbers, then smiles and runs

his fingers through his hair. And that’s
the Heisenberg, he tells her, his hand brushing hers.

Is this mathematics talk a kind of love language
I wonder. That’s what I’d have hoped when I
was young, if a boy with such deep eyes


and timbered voice were explaining
such a principle, so certainly, to me.