Poem: Rivers of Latte

By Judy Walden

takeaway coffee illustration

We only wanted two cups of coffee.

This proved to be a hard ask in the town

that called itself the ‘bread capital of Taranaki’


Why only recently Tom Cruise himself had

strode the local streets as the Last Samurai.

He’d even taken the local mountain as his Fujiyama

and showed interest in property at Ōakura


“We’d have to employ extra staff to do coffees”

she snapped in a voice usually displayed by netball coaches.

Darn demanding Aucklanders. Couldn’t they just

eat their potato tops dry?


Waves of hunger and thirst had overwhelmed us as we drove

the surf highway of Taranaki the western bump of coast

bracketing the mountain.

Finally beaching us at this little town.

Coffee denied we asked for a date scone to accompany

the potato top pie.

“Sultana not date”.

Oh yes silly us we should have noticed.


“Is there anywhere we could buy a coffee?”

Rick asked.

“The fish n chip shop maybe ‘do‘ them or the dairy”


He was a long time gone so I located a very sensible

Lions donated table outside the crumbling Art Deco

Plunket rooms. ‘BABIES only weighed on Tuesdays‘

Let’s hope they didn’t have a growth spurt on Fridays.


The fish n chip shop lady was severely flustered and challenged

“You want coffee? I’ll have to put the kettle on” she fretted.

Well yes you do need hot water.

“Should have put it on this morning”.

The horrors of a boiling

waterless morning flickered hauntingly across her eyes.


But what would she put it in?

A cupboard opened to reveal

an interesting array of café memorabilia.

Did he glimpse a 1953 coronation mug?

Finally located – two cardboard cups and lids that nearly fitted.


How much did we owe her? Another demanding request

bringing a hurried huddled consultation with family members….


As we drank our hard won coffees I thought about Taranaki.

People born in my decade don’t really want the streets of Manaia

to run with rivers of latte.

Or any of the streets of small town NZ for that matter.

We don’t really want another Rotovegas or Taupocabana.

We still like to remember these little towns as they were.


Just an instant coffee perhaps.



Judy Walden

Auckland, NZ


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