Found Letter from the Cute Barista Girl to the Male Poet

by Cynthia French

I found your poem.
That one you performed at the poetry slam.
That you posted to YouTube.
That your friends tagged me in on Facebook.
That you left inconspicuously on the table
under the tea service you neglected to bus
despite the signs posted everywhere
asking patrons to “please bus your own dishes.”

I guess you wanted me to find it
but weren’t ballsy enough to just
hand it to me yourself.

You know the one,
pretty much the same as all the poems
all the other poet boys have written
to all the other cute barista girls
since the dawn of time. Or at least
since the dawn of espresso machines
and cute barista girls.

But yours was different.

The way you captured my cuteness
with the word “cute,” and nailed the color
of my eyes with the adjective “espresso-colored.”
How original you are poet boy!
Just like a skim vanilla latte, you are.

You should know skim vanilla lattes are not original.
I make at least twenty-seven of them every shift.
Skim milk has no body to it. It’s pretty much water.
So you’re kind of like a watered-down,
artificially sweetened cup of coffee.

How’s that metaphor-ya?

Also, my eyes aren’t brown.
And I’ve never seen a hazel espresso bean.
And calling me cute isn’t cute.
Puppies are cute. Me, I’m fierce.
I’m more avalanche than baby chihuahua,
More dangerous than a pitbull,
Snottier than a pug, and, in case you hadn’t noticed,
I walk on two legs.

I did not put vanilla in your mocha because
I must have sensed you liked it that way.
That shit was not fate.
It’s our secret recipe.
And I’ll probably get fired for telling you.

I know having your order memorized
makes you feel special,
but I have everyone’s order memorized.
It’s kind of like … my job.
Which is what this is. A job.

I don’t come to the library
Or the cubical at your temp job
Or your mother’s basement
to spy on you
while you’re “working on your poetry.”

I am not waiting for the day
you finally get up the courage
to tell me you think I’m cute.
I’m waiting for the day you might
tip me more than a quarter.

Seriously, this poor poet thing is played out.

I know how much you spend
on coffee and muffins and soup each week.
Buy a can of Campbell’s
and leave me a dollar next time.

Then maybe I’ll notice you
or something.
But probably not.

I got my eye on the androgynous punk
behind the deli counter down the street.
I like the way they cut my meat.

It’s real cute.




When you decide to eat the whole pizza
because leaving just one or two pieces
just doesn’t make sense at the time.

When you squeeze in dessert
because the sweetness dances
in your mouth like joy.

When you get so full
the thought of moving anything
proves a dangerous task.

You turn defensive
become overly cautious
an inflated balloon in a field of porcupines.

I’ve been eating up stories for years
cramming them into memory
until the drawers jam shut.

There’s a bench seat in my bedroom
packed by a tetris engineer
with journals and diaries and albums

It’s overwhelming
worrying I’ll pick the wrong place to start
that I won’t be able to fit it all back in

That I’m all types of carnival dart
crooked aim sloppy toss
Three attempts for a dollar.



Women of the World Poetry Slam

wowpsIn March, I attended the Women of the World Poetry Slam for the 6th year in a row.  This year, I was on the waiting list to compete up until the Sunday before the event, when I received an email from Poetry Slam, Inc., telling me I was being taken off the waiting list.

I had already resigned myself to laying by the pool (weather permitting) and just hanging out and drinking and listening to poetry.  But why not just keep it relaxed and also read some poems in front of an audience?  Why do these big competitions have to be about the competition all the time?  Yeah, that’s what I thought, so I decided that I’d go, and I’d compete, but given I was in the middle of a St. Patrick’s weekend and I work at an Irish Pub, I was not going to wear myself ragged trying to practice or memorize new poems or what-not.  I decided I’d go and read all new work – work that I hadn’t shared on the WOWPS stage before.  Fresh work, right out of my journal.

So that’s what I did.  And it was liberating.  I watched some of the other competitors have the pre-show gitters, I witnessed stressed out faces looking for people to practice poems with, I saw the nerves on stage, and to be honest, I missed that part of the competition a little bit.  But I also had so much fun not doing any of that.

The first night, I pulled out two funny pieces, and the audience appreciated it.  I was mentioned on Slam Center (the ESPN of poetry slam – you can go listen to the podcast now if you’d like) for my humor.  But I was practically mathed out of finals.  I mean, I COULD have tried to win my two bouts Friday night and math maybe would have pushed me into finals, but I still had new poems I wanted to do, and figured that was longer of shot I was interested in attempting.

Friday night, I went into the 2 minute round with a vulnerable poem about suicide.  It was a piece I really wanted to do, in part because it’s what’s been consuming my writing for the last 4 years, and in part because I wanted to show this national group of poets that I’m not just a funny poet.  I went over time, but was proud of the performance.  In the 3 minute round, I performed a new piece called Found Letter from the Cute Barista Girl to the Male Poet.  By that point in the bout, there hadn’t been much humor, and the audience really needed it.  So I let them soak it up.  When I practiced the piece, it clocked in at 2 minutes 40 seconds.  A good 30 second buffer for laughter.  I ended up getting a 1.0 time penalty, which means that I added 51-60 seconds onto the poem due to crowd response in the poem.  That’s a lot of laughs. The performance was again mentioned during Slam Center!

Lit Slam, who attended WOWPS for the 2nd year in a row runs a competition for the audience – all the members of the audience have the opportunity to vote for their favorite poems of the bout and the top poems make it into a digital anthology called Alight, The Best Loved Poems of WOWPS.  Cute Barista Girl made it into the anthology and will be coming out this summer!  (Here’s a link to last year’s anthology)

I couldn’t be more pleased.

But besides me, y’all, this years Women of the World Poetry Slam contained some of the most amazing performances and poems that I’ve seen at a competition.  Every year there are stand-outs.  When you’re like, wow, Tiffany Love (made up name) totally rocked it this year.  But WOWPS2014 was a complete rock out.  There were so amazing voices.  There were out of this world performances (I’m thinking of Cheryl Maddalena’s performance as a sacrificial poet).  And the women going into finals – well, I had no idea who had the best chance of winning that – they were all strong writers with great stage presence.

That said, congratulations to Dominique Christina for taking home the gold at this year’s tournament – also using at least one brand spanking new piece read from her iPad.  Side note:  Apple should really start sponsoring these poets!

Oh, and I even made it into the Tittler (the satirical gossip newspaper of WOWPS).

I don’t think I will be able to go to the National Poetry Slam in Oakland this year, and I’m not even sad about it having had this experience at WOWPS this year.

Past Performance · Performance

Buddy Wakefield visits Minnesota

BUDDY WAKEFIELD is the three-time world champion spoken word artist featured on NPR, the BBC and HBO’s Def Poetry Jam.  He won the 2005 Individual World Poetry Slam, is a Board of Directors member with Youth Speaks Seattle, and is an author of Write Bloody Publishing.

Wakefield, who is not concerned with what poetry is or is not, delivers raw, rounded, disarming performances of humor and heart.

Join Buddy Wakefield in the Poet’s Room at Kieran’s for dinner (off the menu) and artist Q&A.  Ask Buddy what it’s like being a full time artist, touring internationally, performance, or publishing.

Priority Seating available to guests coming early.   We encourage early guests to enjoy dinner from the Kieran’s menu to help support the venue in its support of the arts.

Following dinner, enjoy an intimate performance.  Those not able to come early for dinner, are invited to arrive after 7:30pm for the 8:00 performance.

Tickets are limited.

40 Table Seats
10 Bar Seats
10 Standing Room Only (8pm only)


Ticket Type
6:30 Dinner $10.00 USD8:00 Show $10.00 USD


Past Performance · Performance

Out of the Darkness

I haven’t been a very good blogger lately, but I want to direct your attention to an event I’m participating in this weekend that is extremely important to me.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Community Walk.

The walk is the last big event in a year-long fund raising effort for the organization who’s mission is to understand and prevent suicide through research, education and advocacy.  Sadly, and unfortunately, most of us have experienced a loss due to suicide, or have known someone who has struggled.  I am the daughter of an attempt survivor who continues to struggle with depression.  I do work in schools where young people are too-often affected by suicide.  As a society, we need to do better.  By supporting the work of organizations such as AFSP, we can do better.

If you would like to participate in the walk, you can register at the event starting at 9:00am.  The walk starts at 10:30am.  I will be sharing a poem during closing ceremonies at noon.  Afterwards, there is a lite luncheon with beer, wine, and the Vikings game for $10.

If you can’t attend, please consider making a donation. 




               ~For Marty

When you’re dead,
the things you were working on
before just lay there,

It’s easy with poems
Any editor could come along
and throw them together chronologically
and make an anthology.

But it’s different with old cars.
Sure, someone could come along
and finish rebuilding that Volkswagen van,
but it won’t be yours anymore.

It will just be a Volkswagen van
that somebody finished rebuilding.
Nobody will remember
that you finished the dashboard,

the care that you put into it.
And oh, the plans you had for upholstery.
Those decisions will go to someone else.
Like the girlfriend you decided not to marry.

Wedding fantasies shared over
park benches in London.
None of it will matter.
It wasn’t yours to begin with.




I am an avid house cleaner
one drop of dust, and I pounce.
I practice only what I preach
especially when it comes to cuticle care.
I paint my nails at least three times a day.
It’s not because I’m indecisive about color,
I just enjoy the process.
And the smell of acetone.
I don’t care what you think of me.
I’ll wear the gold lame cat suit
if it suits me.
I own two of them.
They remind me of the Oscars
and my love for awards shows.
I never miss them.
Especially when animals are involved.
I spend my free time at zoos.
You’ll find me with the ostrich.
Or ostriches, if you prefer.
I did not have to look up the plural
for ostrich to know
just how much we have in common.



In the Details



The best April Fool’s Day joke I ever played
was the year I called my mother and told her
I’d gotten married over spring break
at the Elvis Chapel of Love in Graceland.

She was pissed.

Not so much that I’d gotten married,
but that I’d gotten married without her.
The Elvis theme.  The guitar shaped pool
at the hotel.  Chili Cheese fries for dinner.

None of that mattered.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t believe
anything I say.  I’m just saying that I once
had a boyfriend who offered to finance my poker career,
because of my ability to keep a straight face.

Now he was a good liar, but horrible at cards.

I will do everything I can to protect you
from my feelings.  My disappointment.
I’m horrible at remembering jokes.
But so good at finding things to make you laugh.


That’s What She Said – just keeps getting better!

Two more guests for That’s What She Said have been confirmed.  I’m waiting for their official bios and such, but I’ll let you in on the news now!

Poet Thadra Sheridan!  Thadra and I go way back – we went to our first National Poetry Slam together in Seattle back in 2001, and her and I co-produced a show called Lingo at First Avenue, and Gen-Estro at a club called Sursumcorda in downtown Minneapolis.  She’s an amazing writer, performer, server of coctails and performance coach.  Here’s a link to a poem and audio recording. 

Musician Kerry Alexander!  Kerry is all sorts of awesome, and you can listen to her beautiful songs here. 

Oh, and I THINK my beat boxing coach might make a special appearance at the show – stay tuned for more on that!


Have you reserved your tickets yet?  Save $3 when you reserve your tickets in advance.