The Espresso Machine Hates Me, a Poem From My Open Mike Days

A road lesser traveled these days if there ever was one, the open mic poetry venue. A rarity outside of Soho, Manhattan, some of my favorite times as a writer was becoming a part of local poetry series hosted by area coffeehouses in Frederick and Westminster, Maryland and other surrounding burgs. I was blessed to be a featured reader of a handful of times, but the biggest kick was making such beautiful friends in art. Friday nights especially closing down a bookstore/coffee shop with our words and music, then closing down a local brewery afterwards every week…creating art on the spot with a rowdy company of weekend alcoholics…the brewery nearly threw us out a few times, but they welcomed us back the following week anyway. Some of the finest times I’ve ever known.

Anyone reading in a coffeehouse might be able to relate to one of my heavy hitter pieces circa 2008…

The Espresso Machine Hates Me

Ray Van Horn, Jr.

there’s a reason I talk fast a lot

and it’s not just because my kid carries on during his nite nite story

sadly, I’m asked to repeat myself when fielding business calls

my saving grace is brokers talk faster than me

it’s that goddamn espresso machine, man

the one that goes


every time it’s my turn on the mike

like a balcony critic on stage level


once I open my mouth

it used to be funny

we’ve all paid our dues

that’s the life of a coffeehouse poet

but I’m starting to take it personal


I nod to my audience,

blather an intro from the hip,

then the minute I start a stanza


yes, it feeds my habit

and I’m not referring to a caramel macchiato kick

            though I’ve been known to scoop and sling

            when the whipped cream’s too thick

            so I can score a direct hit of the liquid speed

without the goddamn espresso machine

I have nowhere to read my toils

and therein lies the rub

like a don knows faithful tribute keeps his neighborhood in line

or a greedy club owner puts bands on for a fee

the inconsiderate, goddamn espresso machine

has me by the balls

pay to play


thank you, goddamn espresso machine

for giving me a public forum to hijack ears each week

hiss at my work all you like

for you and I will suffer in-arms come June

when iced coffee becomes the rage

10 thoughts on “The Espresso Machine Hates Me, a Poem From My Open Mike Days

  1. I love it!
    I used to do open mics and was a featured reader many times. It was a great outlet before I became a professional writer (plus it helped me realize I was a great speaker so I later had an additional career!) I read in coffee shops and art galleries and even nightclubs all over NJ and NYC.
    Poetry is such a high form of art, and reading it aloud takes it to the next level.
    Do you have any of your poems recorded? I’d love to hear them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, you are quite traveled and ventured, I’m impressed, Maryanne! You and I have followed many similar paths. We were on the hunt for the Nuyorican in Midtown hoping to get on the list to read, but got lost after having a blast at McSorley’s, lol. I was carrying a few of my pieces in my pocket, lol. I consider myself a fair poet with occasional bursts of goodness, though I’ve always loved doing it. I just wrote a short story for my next collection about my time in the scene, “The Poet,” only it’s a little more dramatic. I recorded a few videos of my old poems for TikTok and linked them here, but I closed the TT account. If they’re not here, I can repost or redo them altogether.


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