The Costly Cup


Thurs Nov 12
Had to scootch down to Main Campus to take care of some silly admin things. Which went rather quickly. So then decided to trundle forth into the big dark loud hipster coffee hangout in the snood (student hood). It’s really not so bad, but is the kinda place where they charge $5-even for a rather smallish size “large” simple chai or coffee. Reminds me of Lew’s great poem, one of my favs, though I’ve never been a drinker:

for Neil Davis, Innkeeper

At 50 cents
I can buy my second drink
with change from the first.

At 60 cents
I have to wait for my third drink
before I can buy it
with change from the first two.

At 70 cents
I have to wait for the fourth drink
before I can buy it with change.

You have left me penniless,
and drunk.

—Lew Welch [1970]

Poor Lew, it was drink finally got to him, largely. That, and life. Generally speaking.
Anyway, the drink-inflation poem is particularly apt to my visiting this over-priced coffee place, as the only other times I’ve been in here, twice, were to meet-up with my beautiful friend Xy X. She was once a bar tender herself, in a distant mountain town, and some months ago, when she was exploring one of my own old happy haunting-grounds, riding a rental bike over the Golden Gate into beautiful Marin, she happened upon the country inn (still in operation) which is the unnamed setting for Lew’s 50 cent drinking poem. It’s a quaint eating establishment that has long held a special place in my heart (though not for its bar!). My fondness for the place is only tangentially connected to Lew’s poem: I met Lew before I discovered the inn, on my own steam. Didn’t realize he’d once been a regular there until later still, when I first discovered this particular juicy little poem gem of his.  I think Lew’s ability to cut precise little gems like this was partly connected to his years as a carpenter–able to pound those long nails all the way down straight with two quick blows–Whap! Th’WHONK!!

The poem appears in Lew’s posthumous volume of collected poems:

Ring of Bone: Collected Poems (New & Expanded Edition)
Lew Welch
Foreword by Gary Snyder
published by City Lights, San Francisco







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