“Instant Coffee” by Patrick Donnelly, published in the October 2003 issue of The Yale Review, makes a beautiful and tightly woven connection between the coffee and the sunset. This connection is expanded into the change of the seasons, and could be representative of much more, what specifically being left up to the reader. The personification of summer and much of the language make it feel human and personal and lend credence to a reading of personal loss, whether of a loved one or thing making no difference.

The vocabulary of the sunset (falling, cloud) is used to describe the coffee, and the vocabulary of coffee (dregs) is used to describe the sunset. Time is brought in with the cream that holds “an instant.” The insects, the dregs, the giving up, the dark water, the kneeling, the cold, and the dispersion all point to a feeling of loss and mourning. However, the sweetness, the light, the summer, and the bright crystals all point to hope, happiness, and joy. I take away a celebration of life that glories in the transitions from one thing to the next yet mourns the passing of the lost.

There also seem to be some theological overtones. One could imagine the winged things to be angels as easily as insects, the sweetness to be a loved one for whom the angels have come, the pouring out to be acceptance of the loss, the cloud of cream to be a vision of heaven, and summer to be the Christ dispersing light into the cold dark world. However, even without taking it to that level of symbolism the piece is highly effective at evoking loss, acceptance, and comfort or hope in images that are poignant, effective, new, and breathtaking.

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