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The morning clientele at Pellegrini's

A gaggle of nurses,
their faces animated by coffee and gossip,
laugh loudly, another night shift done.

Closer to Claude and the café entrance,
sits an elderly man, pouring sugar into his black coffee.
He talks to Paul, the barista—in Italian,
interspersed with some English.
The weather. No rain.
The soccer. Another loss for the Socceroos.
Life since his Maria died. Admits to going more often
out to Flemington racecourse.
The young people on the train.
So many with tattoos. There was a time
when only sailors, jailbirds and Pacific islanders had them.

Claude sketches the clientele’s faces,
studies each individual when they pause then gaze
into the café mirrors,
at their iPh0one,
the bags of Vittoria coffee
which line the postcard-cluttered shelves
behind the café counter.

Nino’s there, surveying the café
from the threshold of the kitchen.
He’s wearing one of his signature check shirts,
a coffee-stained tea towel draped over his right shoulder.
In comes the guy from American Tailors—
Sebastian?—he'll talk to anyone with two ears—
about his love of opera, his favourite recordings,
how Mario Del Monaco
is the greatest tenor of all time.

Claude sketches. Today his lines and shadings
are sure, controlled, fairly pleasing to his eye.

Tall when necessary, Peter Bakowski has been writing poetry for 37 years. His poems continue to appear online and in print worldwide.