Review: Café Rosetta

Leah Angstman
Jun 27, 2016 · 3 min read

T. Kilgore Splake
56 pages
ISBN 978–1479280957
6” x 9” trade paperback
Music Shoe Press
Available HERE
Review originally published on 2/16/13

T. Kilgore Splake is a creature of habit, drinking his coffee every single morning in a café and penning poems about the café’s patrons. A fellow Michigander (Props to my home state!), he lives in the Upper Peninsula, where time moves slower, coffee is still meaningful and lends to prolificacy, and the winter sucks the life from a younger soul but caters to a slower life perfectly. These are the poems and full-color photographs, wrapped tightly in a nicely packaged trade paperback, that were inspired by the other visitors in the stubborn winter of Northern Michigan at a little espresso and vegetarian hole-in-the-wall called Café Rosetta.

Most of the poems deal with the goings on of the café:

[ … ]
early morning gossip
dishes washed
sinks cleaned
carpets vacuumed
wondering how to spend
rest of friday’s hours
[ … ].

Like the hustle and bustle of the café, these poems continue to flow seamlessly: no titles, no capitalization, no punctuation, just the ol’ graybearded bard’s signature style of short bursts of centered lines flowing from one page to the next like continuous sips on a familiar mug — yet choppy in places, like sips that are too hot against the roof of the mouth, so one must pause for a moment to ease the sting.

And some of the scenes do sting, too (If you are a plumpish person, this is not the book I would recommend for you.);

[ … ]
obese rolling fat
small backpack
riding backbone flab
ordering rich pastries
feeding chubby face
like old ore train
car topped high
copper load to
tamarack smelter

some are rather sad,

[ … ]
too early
for memorial day tourist
not a local regular
greyhound lost child
riding to highway’s finish
seeing end of the world
escaping mother
ghost of distant stepfather
drinking rosetta coffee
[ … ]

[ … ]
home alone pause
before rosetta coffee
looking for a friend
older children grown
loose wedding ring
[ … ]

and some, though seldom, are sweet:

late march
sun shining
winter sparrows singing
pretty young girl
[ … ].

There are some repeated scenes, visuals, and lines in here — Ethiopian coffee, TV Weather Channel, the cliffs, Point Betsy, the poet tree, early morning — that could probably be condensed, but overall, the repetition gives the feeling and appearance of routine, of a daily journey and ritual that begins with coffee and ends at the cliffs. Be prepared to take that journey, and grab a warm cup of joe while you’re at it.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Leah Angstman

Written by

Historian, The Coil & Alternating Current editor-in-chief, book nerd, author of OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA (Regal House, Jan 2022).

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.