The chocolate shop was turquoise,
And the windows were filled with skulls.
They weren’t real skulls, of course:
Soft browns and creams,
With flowery eyes,
To make the mouth water.
Día de Meurtos had come again;
Not long before, there had been Easter eggs
The size of children in the windows:
Bitter black or golden-brown,
No doubt a chore for the Bunny to hide.
The bell clinked at our arrival;
The skulls woke up,
Singing in alarm.
The menu watched us, expectantly.
There was a cabinet of chocolates,
Like dark jewels,
Ripe under the earth.
We scaled the stairs,
And found our favourite table,
We sat, grinning
At each other,
Like the skulls had got into our eyes.
We sat there often,
In summer, or in winter,
Huddled close together,
Jotting down the rambling words
Of poems and songs.
We were caught in a tide,
Pushed down the stream by circumstance and time,
Away from that place,
And had not returned for nigh on a year.
No chocolate touched us in that time,
Surviving, only, on the rogue
We had not time to say a word,
Before our ‘Usual’ came to greet us,
Like a long-lost friend.
Two thick mugs, steaming beside each other;
Brown froth dripping over the sides.
They might have been the deep
Dark eyes of an Aztec emperor,
Or the breasts of a South American goddess.
We lifted the mugs, carefully,
Like forbidden fruit;
We each took a spoon
And parted the froth,
To bring the dark liquor to our lips.
This was not your processed powder,
Bought from the supermarket
And missing an ‘a’ from the packaging,
But the dark brooding of Colombia,
Ground from the beans of the Tree of Earth:
The liquid madness of kings.
We sat still, sipping gently
When the cups were half empty,
We set them down, and commenced in dances
Of word and thought.
I read poetry
And clips of verse,
And we revelled in the mythologies
Of the written heart of cacao.
All the day’s worries shouldered themselves,
Away and out the door.
Together we sat, dissolving ourselves,
Blissfully, loudly, and in silent wonder,
In the dark waters of the cup.
The mugs were soon empty.
I scraped the brown remains,
Like a shaman poking wisdom
Out of arcane chicken innards.
The shop glowed around us;
People came and went,
Wearing the faces of proud deities,
Or gilded demons.
The air flickered and frolicked.
The skulls broke from their cabinets and rolled up the stairs,
Singing of beauty and earth;
They made skeletons of discarded spoons
And broken cutlery,
Hands joined in circles
As the ancestors danced,
Mud and rain tore open windows,
And Mayan ghosts drifted from our mugs.
The floorboards cracked, and up grew tall trees,
Bearing ripe cacao pods.
We sat together, the two of us, smiling,
And watched the forest grow.
I thought I would write a poem about it,
But that could wait.
In the morning,
When the cup calls,
And you sit together at the table,
You might talk in politeness over tea,
With the civilness of Victorians in China;
Or you could fraternise with coffee,
Buzzing like a hornet’s nest.
But it is chocolate,
Drunk together by the fire,
On the street,
Or in a chair,
Which binds people together,
Brother and sister,
Father and daughter,
Mother and son.
(Photo taken by Joanna Eden, during our visit to Chococo in Exeter)