Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 22, 2008

Kafein: A Neo-Beat poem

Warning: Today’s post Rated R. Adult themes and language in a surreal, coffee-induced blurt, a beatnik/Anne Sexton style confessional poem of postmodern America and male middle age. If I should ever run for public office, or be accused of poisoning young minds, this is the poem they will present as Exhibit A for why I am an unfit leader. And then the terrorists will truly have won…

— — 

Kafein , by Mark Nielsen

Sign says “3 or more in a booth after 8”

Is that a.m. or p.m.?

Edith Piaf follows Sinatra on the overhead P.A.

La Vie en Rose.

Some co-ed from NU asks the waitress “who’s singing?”

Nobody here knows but me.

I’ve got 10-15 years on everyone in the room.

So I tell little missy it’s Edith Piaf.

“They made a movie about her last year.”

Am I on Jeopardy here?

Do I finally win $10,000 dollars for knowing useless shit like that? 

Friday’s Reader free newspaper cover story is on Paxil.

I took Paxil for awhile.

But me not ready to give up on the idea of sex.

Plus it made me want a nap everyday at 2pm.

Call me crazy, but I’d rather stay depressed.

Naive, moon-eyed, tame-looking 19-year-old collegians on the couch across from me.

Making out.

(A little. Tastefully affectionate.)

See, now that’s why I can’t take Paxil.

Walking by: green-haired waitress with a hardware store on her face.

Mostly stainless steel.

Rings and studs.

A pen in her ear.

No, not behind her ear. In it.

As in through the earlobe.

I’m not judging. I’m just sayin’…

Zeppelin’s Kashmir was on the car radio on the ride over.

Kashmir was also on my mind as I awoke this morning .

Kashmir’s crazy violin riffs, twice in one day… Weeeeeeird.

My sweater 2nite? Not cashmere… just an acrylic-wool blend.

Kashmir: currently a contested region on the Indian/Pakistani border.

Are they farmers or terrorists?

Casimir Pulaski was a Revolutionary War hero from Poland.

His birthday is a school holiday here in Illinois.

We have lots of Poles.

Was Pulaski a mercenary? An 18th century Blackwater hack?

Did he really help the farmer militias of colonial America as much as they say?

Or was some local politician just looking to score points here in Chicago in the 1980s?

Caramel Macaroon coffee in front of me: $3.55 & pop.

Not worth it.

Is this what our Revolutionary War heroes fought and died for?

A country where $4.00 for a shi-shi cup of coffee is seen as normal?

I’m not judging. I’m just sayin’…

Okay, I am judging.

Long live the $0.89 endless cup of joe!

MLB Opening Day: 40 grueling days away.

My Cub hat: made in Bangladesh,

a fact which its tag tells me in four languages.

Getting tired.

(5am wake-up call… gas leak at my wife’s school. Classes canceled. Whoopee for her…

but I wanted to sleep till 7 and couldn’t get back to sleep).

Tiring teaching day, especially managing that




who likes to imitate WWE’s John Sena.

“Not Ready for Prime Time”, that kid.

“Sunny D is the shizzle” : this from the schmoe over my shoulder feeding quarters to an ancient Ms. Pac Man.

This is the only joint for miles with that busy, colorful, faux Friends ambience, complete with couches.

(Beats the shit out of the streamlined, soulless look of a Starbucks.)

What was the name of that coffee joint on the show? Rachel worked there.

Smelly Cat was born there.

This afternoon at school: second kid in about a week I overheard singing Stayin’ Alive.

He’s ten.

Now that, my friend, is the shizzle.

Tomorrow, I will introduce the kids to Muddy Waters.

Mannish Boy.

I spell “M”!

“A”, child.

“N” .

Ain’t that a Man?

Hope the kids don’t listen to the lyrics too closely.

Lots of lovemaking in there.

Bo Diddley co-wrote it.

Bo: originator and owner of the first ever square guitar.

Father of The Bo Diddley Beat.

The Grateful Dead used it alot.

I’m grateful they’re dead.

Meanwhile, Bo’s still kickin’ .

The Beat goes on.

No more Onion copies, neither here or at the newsstand… bummed.

On the shelves next to me:

a Jr. Britanica set,

a book on contract bridge,

and Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1.

A plastic chess set.

Rose-colored vases.

A tintype photo of somebody’s great grandma.

Then (jackpot!) I spot a stack of Onions.

They’re hidden underneath the prayer-candle rack,

which Kafein must have bought, stolen or garbage-picked 

from some Catholic church that was upgrading its foyer

for post-Vatican II, non-candle-lighting parishioners.

Here in Kafein, there are no candles in the round slots.

What’s the point?

I guess all prayers have already gone forth.

Apparently they came back empty.

My prayer: Let it Be.

Let x = x.

Earlier: 2 Aleves + 2 glasses of wine…

still < , , nor nearly as fun as 


for relaxation and release of tension.

Pills. Wine. Coffee.

Headache persists.

But sex wasn’t an option earlier.

I’m not complaining. I’m just sayin’ …

Okay, I’m complaining.

Speaking of sex,

the kids across from me have left now.

I’m now the only patron here without a laptop.

Does a Treo PDA count?

(That’s “Personal Digital Assistant”, not “Public Display of Affection”

…or what those couch kids were demonstrating earlier.)

I have full Qwerty! Email and the Web in my pocket.

Plus the greatest hits of Muddy Waters,

And that new Amy Winehouse record

on a 500MB SD card.

Am I hip yet?

9:49pm – Do I have to come in now, Mom?

Except unlike the people working or studying here

I’m not allowed to sleep till 10:30 in the morning,

As I just overheard someone say they’d be doing.

Sudden smell of patchouli or clove cigarettes.

I turn around. Incense stick on the counter behind me.

Good! Drive dem bad spirits away!

Except the smell is too strong.

Driving me away, too.

Do I have bad juju?

Are my demons showing?

Time to go home anyway.

I’m getting too old for this shit.                



  1. […] Mark Nielsen wrote an interesting post today on Kafein: A Neo-Beat poemHere’s a quick excerptAnd that new Amy Winehouse record. on a 500MB SD card. Am I hip yet? 9:49pm – Do I have to come in now, Mom? Except unlike the people working or studying here. I’m not allowed to sleep till 10:30 in the morning, … […]

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