new zealand electronic poetry centre


Cherie Barford

Fugacity 05
Online Poetry Anthology


How coffee got to Brazil

the wife of the French governor of Guyana
unexpectedly fell for a Brazilian soldier

her eyes (like braziers)
struggled to hold indifference
in a face set by etiquette
into a comely mask

she ‘accidentally’ dropped a handkerchief
one sweltering banquet night
then held her breath
when gallant to the tips of his polished boots
the soldier retrieved the hapless square
returned it with a bow to her gloved fingers

when he straightened
into her smouldering eyes
they caught each others scent

before decorum
shuttered everything
but her laugh
tinkling gratitude
across the ballroom

a trusted confidant relayed the fact
that she kept his touch
folded in the creases of a handkerchief
beneath the corset restraining her heart
that would leap
if it could
into his arms

and that his scent was implanted in her mind
out of reach of the governor
who stripped her every night
squeezed her left breast
then lapped her throat with his pointed tongue
before he came beneath the canopy
of the sturdy four-poster

half crazy
the soldier held himself
in the barracks

he’d married a Barcelonan lady
had never seen her body
like a sacrificial lamb she surrendered to him
a starched white sheet pulled up to her neck
with a slit embroidered by her mother
gaping like an immense button hole
which she placed between her thighs
for his manhood to slip through

when the wind alerted the Governor
to his wife’s inclination
he informed the soldier of a new posting
then beat his wife for her wandering heart

as soon as her tears dried
she concocted a bouquet
her heart cut and bound with the flowers
to present the Brazilian at his farewell

something a lady could do
for services rendered
in front of clapping dignitaries
who failed to see coffee plants
secreted in the middle of the blooms

which her love took home to Brazil
tending them with fond memories
until plantations flourished

this act of espionage
brought some solace to the lovers

but none at all
to the Governor


Published in tusitala by BF Publishing, 2002

Last updated 13 May, 2005