for getting up early on Sunday morning
and drinking coffee at a local spot
but now I'm one of those chumps.
No one cares about my old humiliations
but they go on dragging through my sleep
like a string of empty tin cans rattling
behind an abandoned car.
It's like this: just when you think
you have forgotten that red-haired girl
who left you stranded in a parking lot
forty years ago, you wake up
early enough to see her disappearing
around the corner of your dream
on someone else's motorcycle
roaring onto the highway at sunrise.
And so now I'm sitting in a dimly lit
cafe full of early morning risers
where the windows are covered with soot
and the coffee is warm and bitter.
The narrator of this poem is plagued by bitter memories of his youth, his "old humiliations" which revisit him in dreams, making noise, dogging him into rising early every Sunday. In his youth, he mocked his father and his father's friend for this same thing, rising early for Sunday coffee, and now, in his own words, Hirsch is one of those chumps.
The resigned attitude Hirsch has towards this new Sunday ritual is interesting to me. He knows that "no one cares" about his old humiliations, that girl who stood him up forty years ago, but he seems to now instinctively seek out the company of other people in similar situations. I particularly like the image of Hirsch himself as "an abandoned car" with a string of empty tin cans rattling behind him. The tin cans are empty, because they are memories of dreams unfulfilled, and they rattle, because these old humiliations still bother him greatly.
The cafe itself sounds like a dismal place of small comfort. Grimy, full of old chumps who can't sleep because of their pitiful dreams (at least Hirsch depicts himself as pitiful, not pitiable), it doesn't sound like the most pleasant place. The crumb of comfort is the coffee. While the memories may be bitter, thinking of "warm and bitter" coffee warms my bones a bit. Bitter is a good thing in coffee, so far as I'm concerned. Sure, the place may have sooty windows, and be full of old people dragging about their old humiliations, but at least the coffee is warm.