Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Warm to the Rim (Five Cups)

In the first cup, I have no object
because I do not know what is there.
I drink from it when I drink from it.
The rim is smooth and the tea is hot until there is a cup,
some tasty traces on my lips
and a warmth within.

In the second cup I look for more and it frustrates the hell out of me
because the taste is different, the temperature is changed,
the process is observed, not done, and only fools seek to be wise.
The tea is first a catalyst, then a vexation, then a symbol, then a clue,
but never is the tea tea in a cup from which I drink.

In the third cup there is a mixture: tea, some milk, a little sugar,
bitterness and some redeeming warmth that makes the cup worth drinking.
I do not notice when it is gone; I've already begun to stir again.

In the fourth cup there is no tea and there is no cup.
There is a little milk to which I add some water and a golden strand of honey.
With these additional things, it still looks like a little milk
in a little bowl of cool, clean porcelain. The first drink is wonderful and warm,
bitter as hot water, cold as milk with no trace of the golden strand.
I hold it in my mouth and stir the liquid in the bowl with one finger.
I can feel the warmth on my tongue and I can feel
the viscous, golden strand entwined about my finger as it stirs.
I swallow the first drink and I taste the rest at once,
and O glad God! I am glad because there is so little milk and water in the bowl
and so much honey. Not wasting a drop, I clean my finger in my mouth
and empty the little bowl with my tongue.
I have forgotten tea and cups.

In the fifth cup is tea, but the fifth cup doesn't exist
because it is tea in a cup and I am not thirsty;
I want for nothing, having become, by this time, nothing myself.

There is tea in a cup, warm to the rim.


  1. Deep and thought provoking and incredibly beautiful.
    Fav line: "I want for nothing, having become, by this time, nothing myself..."

  2. Cups are things that shouldn't be considered cups. They have qualities that explain whether or not tea is in them. If the Tea doesn't exist, it's due to the drinker. The drinker has to put the tea in there in the first place.

  3. I feel like this is a brilliant, incredibly fantastic metaphor for something. Or a zen thing. Or both.
    But my brain and zen never got along very well.
    However, I have full faith in the awesomeness of this poem.

  4. I agree with joanna, mostly on the metaphorical feel of the whole thing. its beautiful, i love the build up and the last 4 lines for which it ends...its pretty amazing.
    ima go grab a cup of tea now...

  5. Btw, the second cup knows there was tea. Just not the kind the drinker wanted and not enough of it.

  6. whyforhowcome are there not more poetryums on this place??? I keep checking and there's not anything new there :(