“Midlife Crisis” and “Woman at the Cafe”

Manan Bhavnani

In essence, both poems are about life: “Midlife Crisis” explores unresolved grief and personal trauma, while “Woman at the Cafe” aims to depict the chaotic life in the service industry. My work draws on experience, observation, and a fascination with the unknown.

Midlife Crisis

My aunt left too soon,
when cancer took her,
from her husband and kids,
her sister,
and our family.

She was in her early forties,
and I wonder,
if amid that chaos,
she had a midlife crisis.

Did she lose hope,
or doubt herself,
or yearn for the heavens;
did she wish the best for her sons?
and accept that eventually (if not sooner) she’d be gone.

Did she run her course with chemo?
and get sick of it all,
because holding on while slowly losing grip was a lost cause,
because an angel dropped by, and it was time to follow.

I turned 21 last October,
and my teenage self
didn’t think I would make it,
that instead, I would be gone
two decades sooner than Poe.

Lost love,
Lost time and hope,
Haven’t found purpose,
Scratching at the skin, just to feel something more than the surface.

Three tracks titled alive on my playlist,
but for the last two years,
I’ve often felt like death
or had visions of the grave.

So, I can’t help but wonder,
what the meaning of life is,
am I intoxicated on melancholy,
or is this it – my midlife crisis?

Woman at the Cafe

This time
last year,
I remember being at this cafe,
sipping on some coffee,
working on my art, as I often do.

In between phrases,
and stanzas,
I took little breaks,
looking around,
and taking in that setting
into mind, and into heart.

In one of these brief moments,
I glanced at a lady,
with brunette hair and black dress,
who happened to be working there.
While I sat,
with a task that allowed
me to pace my output,
she danced through the crowded tables,
drifting between them, and the pantry.

At the end of a hectic
back and forth
she paused a little,

finding her way
to a mirror behind a counter,
and peered at herself.
She looked
or perhaps,
was merely pensive.
As I saw her,
the stranger that she was,
and that she still is,
I felt some curious connection,
some odd suggestion –
that as she stared in that mirror,
she was dwelling on some awful past,
or troubled with some present misfortune:
a passing, or life itself.

Yet, for some reason,
I mused it was the past,
for the way it clings to us
and the way we cling to it,
grant it a subtle spotlight,
unbeknownst inside,
visible outside.

While I worked, and enjoyed working,
with my little breaks,
the same, I pondered,
could not be said for the woman.
For while I was at peace,
she seemed to be amidst a war,
of which I knew little;
and it was apparent,
that she prayed for relief.
That was all I saw of her,
and that is all I remember of her,
as I have not been to that cafe since,
as I have not seen her since.
I don’t know how that woman is now,
and I did not catch her name,
but I hope her troubles have subsided,
and everything is swell,
and that she is not denied a much-earned time out,
and that she can, for once, relax.

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