Daily Ditty #17 - Carmella

This is more a free-form poem than lyric. It's what the muse brought me on Sunday morning. 

We have a tradition of naming inanimate things in our family. We had a weekend house - and since it used to be a dining hall for a summer camp (i.e. roughhewn but huge) we called it The Big House. We bought a car from a guy named Joe, so we named the car Little Joe (and the pick-up we bought next was dubbed Big Blue). The coffee table where we sometimes ate was called the Tiny Table (as opposed to the dining room table).

You get the point. Without further ado - Ode to Carmella

This is not really Carmella - her identity has been changed to protect her feelings.

This is not really Carmella - her identity has been changed to protect her feelings.


After two long years, our espresso machine is finally settling in.

At first, sometimes,

We’d push the button for one coffee,

And she’d make a second.

Just cause.

She’d even make one later on, 

When we were in another room, watching a movie.




My husband christened her Carmella, after the dramatic mafia wife on the Sopranos.

(“I said I didn’t want a coffee,” I’d tell my husband as he slid one in front of me.

“Carmella wanted you to have one.”)



She would grind and grind the beans in her belly,

And yet no coffee would emerge.

Like sobs that produce no tears,

Or whining that gets no attention.


“What’s up, Carmella,” I’d ask.

“Please stop wasting the beans,” I’d plead.

And she’d stop. For awhile.


(It was around this time that I started calling the microwave, “Mike.”)


Perhaps she’s a rescue espresso maker.

(I don’t like to start this conversation with the confession that we bought her refurbished.)

Like the highstrung Afghan hound who spent one miserable night howling and tearing up our basement before we returned him.

Perhaps she endured untold abuse at the hands of a previous caffeine lover, who crossed over into addiction, cruelty and madness

Faster! Stronger! Bad machine!

No – we are kind, patient, understanding. Good Carmella.


(Please don’t call her a lemon. At least not when you’re in the same room.)


At some point, a light started flashing red.


Not the water light, not the beans light, not the refuse light, a mystery light.


We cleaned her gently from top to bottom, inside and out –

Decalcifying, drying, soothing…

And she flashes still. But she does make the coffee. So who cares, really, what’s wrong with her?

(That’s the kind of selfish, callous people we are.)


Magically, she no longer makes unwanted extra cups.

Maybe it’s because we keep her clean.

Maybe it’s because she’s given up the fight.

Domesticated. Docile. Waiting patiently for us to tug her leash, to exercise her.

“How ‘bout a cup of coffee, eh? Good girl!”


I think she may be getting old.

One day I found a puddle of water all over the counter, dripping onto the floor.

Like she peed herself.

Now I leave a paper towel skirt around her

Like a diaper.


These days, all’s quiet on the coffee front.

She makes the right number of servings, not more.

She’s not grinding or peeing.

She’s behaving.

(Perhaps she heard us discussing a sale on machines at Costco)

The surprise-free obedience is soothing –

If a bit dull.

Maybe she was just being playful?

Maybe she was still a puppy when we got her.