my demon in the steamer

January 25, 2012

by Karen Suriano

just days ago
I heard it,
never before
but ever since,
in the deafening cacophony
of my espresso maker’s
hissing bubbles.

I thought at first
it just a silly happenstance,
like what happens to the human ear
when exposed to any constant sound,
repetitive or elusively changing,
your mind
(especially a sleepy,
first-thing-in-the-morning one,
heavily muffled in an ache for caffeine)
in such a receptive, malleable state
starts to pick up rhythms that may
or may not
be there,
and those rhythms suck you in
take you away…

the bashing, gurgling steam
as I rhythmically gyrated the pyrex
of a soy/rice milk combo
(and a bit of chocolate syrup)
I swear
to speak to me,
spitting nonsensical german syllables,
maybe yiddish at times.

this was something new,
so I promptly ignored it
and focused on getting the foam
just right.

but by the third day
it had learned my native tongue,
learned to push whole words
past the garble of harsh hissing,
and I could no longer deny
I could hear the words.
and it knew—
it knew
I was listening.

at first
the message was simple:
shlrrp nahsssz yahsss shrump
nah sssz yahhhsseeee
nah yannniiiisszz
no lissst shelp yanni
no lissssten shoo yanni
no yanni
no listen to yanni

there was
at first
a wave of dread,
fearful titillation,
then an utter relief
the size of a caffeine rush.

I hate Yanni.

no problem there.

me and my demon,
we’re gonna get along
just fine.

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