“Netherlands”: Guest post by Joe Hefferon

My friend talks about the perfect cup of coffee. Compared to what?, I wonder.

Compared to what?

Compared to nothing; maybe it’s just an assessment a grown woman should be permitted to make, without a question. That’s what.

Will she remember it forever?

No, but she might remember how you made her feel about it, if you keep on about it.
(I let it go.)

I had the near-perfection experience in a B&B outside Donegal in 1987, on a post-card misty morning, pastoral as the lap of Jesus. Served with warm scones by a silvery woman accustomed to a thinner hot drink: “I know you Yanks like coffee.”
It was perfectly delicious, just black, just hot enough to make you wonder if it would burn going down, a flirt with danger. Exciting, for Donegal.

Yesterday’s coffee, not so much; nothing memorable about the taste, or the rhetoric borne of the caffeine, nothing and nothingness, that’s what I’ll remember about it. No words ready at the ready to describe what I watched on the television.

I’ve never seen an entire country cry before.

C’mon, you’re a Yank, what about 9/11-hey, 7/7?
Yes, yes, but there was also so much anger, vitriol in the news parlance of the day – let’s get ’em back, we said, in a voice that carried out across the cannons.

But this? It seemed different from behind the camera, our view from the living room. These were the images of collective disbelief. Shock and anguish. The Netherlands was watching a hearse, or lay inside one. Watching with their hands over their mouths, afraid of what would come out. The small caskets are the worst.

The coffee was nearly gone. I wanted to lean back and pour it into my eyes, but it wasn’t hot enough to blind me and anyway, regret always follows action when action is preceded by melodrama. A writer’s curse, unshaken by our awareness of it.

“Well, I wish I were blind, when I see you with your man.”
Bruce Springsteen.

It’s not melodrama when you can play guitar.

I wish I was looking at those cottonwood blossoms right now, instead of this. There’s no one to talk to about how sad I feel for the other ones; they’re all hurt, all broken a little bit, some much more, all sinking in the loam. An entire nation in tears. It’s among the half-dozen saddest thoughts I’ve ever had about people I’ll never meet. I’ll never meet them. It won’t break my heart when they hold onto me to keep from falling away. What if I’m not strong enough? I’ll never meet them.

I tend toward these micro-epiphanies that snap me into another frame of mind, pray for them I think, on the darkest days. They’re in a better place now. They are with God now. Don’t you want to punch people in the face when they say that? I do. Is that an American reaction? I don’t give a fuck.

(Well, that certainly was. You can make me laugh at the strangest times.)

We don’t even know who to get back for this, or if it would help. It wouldn’t. The violent death, the sunflower field, the baby’s toy, the mother’s credit card, the vodka bought to rage against an enemy he can’t define, could hardly, could never, in this or any human universe, make the picture of endless hearses on a warm Netherlands hillside, rest more kindly in my brain.
The little caskets are the worst.

But her cinnamon hair, the knots, she calls them; they’ll help. They’ll squeeze my fingers when I touch her, to press her eyes against my lips. Follicle kisses.
Is there such a thing?

Don’t mess with my moment, I’m an angry American. We’ve a well-trained militia, dontcha know, drums and flags. We can cry and fight at the same time.
Want more coffee?
Only if it’s perfect.

By Joe Hefferon (@HefferonJoe)


2 thoughts on ““Netherlands”: Guest post by Joe Hefferon

  1. eden baylee says:


    Few people can express such a tragedy in the way you have. Your words make me mourn the Netherlands. I’ve used this line before to express similar feelings: Like a picture buried within a picture, once seen, it cannot be unseen.

    By the way, there’s a crack in your American shield,


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