Unsweet Tea


Waitresses around here ask “sweet or unsweet?”
It’s just damn Tea.
What kind of place is this where folks are incapable
of adding their own sugar and lemon, working hard
with long silver spoons
to get the mix just right before the waitress comes by again.

One town I drove through had trees overhanging
the red-bricked boulevard,
gauzy grey-green moss dripping off the branches,
diffusing sunlight across my windshield.

Kudzu swarms the forests
and greenly veils whole swaths of them from the highway.
In winter, the trees are shrouded in dead brown netting
as if giant fishermen traveled from seacoasts
to these midlands draping their great nets across
the oaks for drying.

I miss the papery sound of snapping packets of sugar,
the clink of spoons in tall glasses.
But when my daughter visits, she always tells me that people
seem nicer here.

The ice cold peach wine you and I shared was soft and smooth.
So sweet but the taste evaporates before it overstays its welcome.
We clinked glasses and laughed and wanted more.
But having only the one bottle
we found other stuff to do.

Old men,
handing around a glass jar of gold liquid,
under an enormous oak a block away
from where I grab a sandwich at lunch.
Might be sweet tea in that jar,
but I think not.
And if the men are ever not there,
though the sky is clear, I know
it’s going to rain before dusk.


Jeff says:
Sweet Tea — Subtle culture shock. After a few weeks of living in Georgia, I finally realized what I was missing in restaurants. That clinking sound of people fixing their iced teas. I don’t even like or drink tea so that sound had just become background ambience for me. The poem is just a few quick observations of my new home.

It’s things like that — the little things that always stand out for you in any new place. That’s what I love about this poem. Every place has its own subleties and you’ve has drawn those out so well I can almost get a taste of Georgia — I suspect there be whiskey in the jars — Bourbon? 😉


Last week’s INTERVIEW with Jeff