“Sunday Morning at the Caffe Mediterraneum,” by Wendy Sloan



Sunday Morning at the Caffe Mediterraneum

            (Berkeley, 1972)

Pass the students, the panhandlers, the waiting
dogs, the cotton-robed Krishna-chanting girl
hawking poems. Have a drink, contemplating
the scene, and the state of the world.

How for no cause the war goes on burning
the best we could be, while the sad
simple fact for the rest is discerning
that growing up means knowing you’ve been had.

Climb the stairs to your right. Head straight back for
the restroom, but be sure to allow
a moment to read what’s been written
inside on the ladies’ room door:
I wish I could be what I was when
I wanted to be what I am now.


First published in Sunday Morning at the Caffe Mediterraneum (Kelsay Books 2016) and reprinted here with permission of the author.


Wendy Sloan practiced labor law for the firm of Hall & Sloan before returning to poetry. Sunday Mornings at the Caffe Mediterraneum (Kelsay Books 2016) is her first collection and is available here. Sloan’s poems and Italian translations have appeared in journals including The Able Muse, Big City Lit, Blue Unicorn, Light, Measure, Mezzo Cammin, The Raintown Review, Think, and Umbrella, among other publications, and in the anthologies The Best of the Raintown Review, The Great American Wise Ass Poetry Anthology, and Poems for a Liminal Age, benefiting Médecins Sans Frontières UK. She has been a finalist in the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award competition and was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Sloan has written a series of essays on Italian Renaissance women poets for the Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project. Left to her own devices, Sloan collects books and antiques of little or no discernible value.


Poet’s Note

Sunday Morning at the Caffe Mediterraneum, the poem from which the title of my first collection is derived, refers to a notorious Berkeley California coffeehouse, a perennial hangout for generations of beatniks, hippies, poets, panhandlers, students, intellectuals, revolutionists, and other misfits. The Med claimed to have invented the café latte and, however unlikely that may be, it really did have the best coffee in the world. The Med also had a rather unusual way of spelling its name which, to me, flags the place as a wistful bastion of the imagination and, alas, now also of memory: One more victim of the year from hell, the Med closed its doors forever in 2016. The last lines of my poem are “true,” and that graffiti, scribbled on the bathroom door inside the ladies’ room, stuck with me.


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  • Patricia Yarberry Allen August 20, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Thank you Becky for yet another summer Sunday poem. I needed this reminder today. I read Wendy Sloan’s “SUNDAY MORNING AT THE CAFFE MEDITERRANEUM”, on my side porch overlooking a pond filled with water lilies. I had been watching actual blue birds fly around a Japanese tree with aubergine leaves before your gift arrived in my inbox. In the peace and glory of this setting, I was mentally organizing the rest of the day and the week to come. The list included clothes and work related materials that I needed to bring to the city for cleaning and my work in the office; how to pack the car so that the Airedale would not be too crowded; a personal reminder that I am in charge of the free clinic at the the medical school tomorrow night and oh yes I have two more letters of recommendation to write for the wonderful medical students who both run the clinic and are now applying for their important residency positions and count on me to know them well enough and to write about them in a way that will encourage the directors of the programs where they would like to go to know how very special each student is…and next weekend’s guests and the menu and oh yes the napkins! Which napkins and are they ironed? Each “to do” following rapidly as it always does in my mind..one after the other, never ceasing, so that when I am alone, I am often…not present with myself and the place where I am.

    Then I read this poem and your admonition, “Life does not last, and we would do well to learn to enjoy it as it is while we are still in it.” I have turned my computers off: the one between my ears and now the one in my hand. I can see the blue birds again and feel the morning breeze on my face. I am where I want to be. Thank you, Becky.