Posted by: DéLana | September 28, 2010

You Can’t Sit Here.

As if Starbucks, Corporation isn’t bad enough. I’m hoping it’s still a renovation phase. I’m hoping. I have this poem about the Starbucks on 125 and Lenox. I should say, there are two Starbucks on 125. The other one, on the corner of Adam Clayton Powell, Blvd, definitely has a different vibe, and it came second. That one is across the street from American Apparel. Go figure. This one, I call the Harlem flagship.  I wrote this two years ago. Don’t judge it. I’m using it for the story:

125th and Lenox Flagship

Who would have thought
the blacks would set up shop
inside the glass doors, pay
their two dollars – the price
for a bus or a train – for coffee
and unroll their chess sets
or cards, because its cooler
outside now and the corner
is relentless in winter?
They sit with their open-faced
cup, coffee is black, because
on this same corner, Malcolm preached
about what cream can do to strength,
how integration can weaken
identity. When Starbuck’s came bustling
uptown, the harbinger, bringer of bad news,
the bright light that comes in sleep to say everything
is about to change, the streets are swept clean,
and people are brushed aside. Elders
watch from inside the coffeeshop
where a policeman has finally
set up watch by the window
while some walk in and quickly
walk back out. They do not
get up and move: Dominoes
clink against the tables, against
this space they have paid
to occupy over and over.

So the story: The past couple of weeks, this Starbucks has been “closed for renovation.” The gates have been partially down. Yesterday, while visiting a fried, I walked by this Starbucks, and this couple behind me was remarking about how it’s back open and they wondered what was different and I hear an, “Oh, the tables by the window have been removed.” And I look and see, and confirm. I used to love walking by this Starbucks on the way to church and seeing older men who always reminded me of my grandfather sitting there, playing chess, reading newspapers. The equivalent, I guess, to say, younger folks sitting in Starbucks downtown or Anytown, USA with their laptops. Something about this was so old world and charming, and I might have liked Starbucks in that moment for letting them do it. So yes, the chairs and tables by the window were gone. I looked, and the couple looked with me, and then I heard them voice my own discovery: “They took all the tables and chairs out!” And I shook my head. And I thought: Oh Starbucks, you want our money, but you don’t want us. Is this some type of new-wave you-can-shop-here-but-only-if-you-come-through-the-back-door? I don’t believe I have ever witnessed a Starbucks of its size sans seating.

Again, I pray it is because they are still doing renovations. I pray the tables and chairs and the chess-playing men return.

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