Natalie never meant to tell the Greek-Puerto Rican cutie at Omega Café her vocation. But when Demetrius Rivera, aka “Metri,” saw her Thursday, the poetry book she was reading told him for her.
“Didn’t know you liked John Donne,” he said as he poured coffee in her mug.
“Yeah,” Natalie smiled. “Reading Donne helps me forget how bad my own poetry is.”
Metri’s eyebrows lifted. “No way. If you write it, it’s gotta be good.”
Natalie blushed. On impulse, she scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to him.
“I’m in a poetry reading tomorrow night. There’s the address. If you want, you can come and judge for yourself.”
“Thanks.” Metri slipped the paper in his apron pocket, his eyes dark as mulled burgundy, glimmering, revealing nothing.
He vanished behind the kitchen doors, but not before Natalie filled her eyes with the poetry of his broad, muscular shoulders.
Friday night at Club Isis, Natalie knew Metri had arrived from the telltale spark in her spine. But she didn’t acknowledge him. She was the last of four poets reading and focused instead on her words.
Fifty minutes later, Natalie stepped to the microphone and closed her eyes. When she opened them, the room had fallen away and she felt an enveloping darkness into which she spoke a rhythm of sound that revealed her truest, most hidden self. After her last poem, Natalie stopped and, as if she’d snapped out of a trance, saw several people in the audience, Metri included, on their feet, applauding.
“Can I treat the best poet in the city to a drink?” he asked her afterward.
Natalie smiled and took his outstretched hand.
They walked to a café across the street. “Thanks for coming,” Natalie said when they got inside. “I didn’t expect you to stay long enough to hear me read.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it,” Metri said. “And you should have been at the end. Everybody knows to save the best for last.”
The waiter approached with their orders (one coffee, one hot chocolate, a can of whipped cream) and departed.
“Those first two poets were awful,” Metri continued. “They brought a lot of pretense, but not much poetry.”
“Pretense is poison,” Natalie said. “I just try to stay out of my way so that the words can come and say whatever they need to.”
Metri scooped a dollop of cream from his coffee and held it out to her. Instinctively, Natalie leaned forward and closed her mouth around Metri’s finger, licking it clean with one soft, warm sweep of her tongue.
“That’s how smooth your reading was,” Metri said. “And that’s my nickname for you.”
Natalie thought for a moment. “I like it.” She looked at Metri like he was the world’s best poem come to life before her eyes. Metri sat back and drank in Natalie’s smile. To him, it was sweeter even than the foamy elixir drifting like a cloud on top of his coffee.
published 8 April 2013