Stoic Coffee |
by Peter Krass

So Marcus Aurelius walks into a Starbucks.
The Emperor of Rome orders an iced
pumpkin macchiato grande.

But what he gets isn’t
exactly what he’d ordered.
Marcus Aurelius tastes skimmed milk.
What’s this?
He hadn’t asked for a skinny.

Now someone is shouting:
Skimmed milk is wrong.
Skimmed milk is evil.
Skimmed milk is unnatural!

When Marcus Aurelius realizes
it’s he who’s shouting,
The Emperor of Rome blushes.
He feels ridiculous
remembering what the wise Seneca
had written long before:
There is no room for anger;
everything ought to move us
only to tears or laughter.

Easy for Seneca to say.
Anyone could be wise in 4 B.C.!
Try being a Stoic nowadays
with all this damned skimmed milk.

But Marcus Aurelius tries again.
He’s worked up a thirst.
The Emperor of Rome orders a second
iced pumpkin macchiato grande.
He sips, and damned if once again
he doesn’t taste that awful skimmed milk.
But this time he doesn’t let a mere drink piss him off.
This time as he sips, he laughs.
And this time as he sips, he cries.
His tears pour into the coffee
until the cup overflows
with the salty waves of an angry sea.

Peter Krass lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. He teaches fiction and poetry writing at The Writers Studio in New York City and also works as a freelance writer and editor.