This week’s poem takes its place in the long tradition of list poems. The easy part about writing a list poem is that it’s just a list; the hard part is that lists are often boring – they’re filled with the mundane. This is a wonderful, surprising list that tells us more about the speaker of the poem than any biographical statement could. It’s filled with what William Blake called “the minute particulars” – specific images up close, as in “The fuzz between your lower back and my lips.”

Gretchen Berg lives in Portland and can be found in schools all over Maine and New England working with students and teachers to integrate theater, dance and visual arts in their classrooms.

20 Things Better Than Coffee

By Gretchen Berg

Vermeer and Tom Waits.

The nobility of the 4-H kids at the Fryeburg Fair dressed in their church clothes

each one standing beside a steer at the auction.

Secret tree forts.

A pump organ on the lawn.

Your joke about the guy who thinks he’s a moth.

Maps, birch bark and dice.

Uncle Glen delicately lighting the dynamite fuse with his Salem.

Judy Holiday.


Filling an inside straight.

The fuzz between your lower back and my lips.

Collective bargaining and seersucker.


Tuning forks.

Counting the seconds

between lightning and thunder.

Hearing you climb the stairs carrying two steaming cups.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Gretchen Berg. It appears here by permission of the author.