The days don’t amount to much anymore:
they get spent on coffee-making and flossing, then work and, at best, sleep,
all those debts owed to the day that leave a person
with only a jangle of change left of evening after dinner,
or that quiet dime’s-worth of time between knotting the shoelaces
and the necessity of standing up and walking out of the house before the sun’s even up.
I’ve taken to skipping the flossing before bed sometimes,
and I’ll even forgo the shower every so often on a Sunday,
just for the coppery daylight it nets me in the late morning,
or the silvery slant of moonlight glinting on the carpet,
not all that different from the mornings I would wake up
on nickel-gray days to find a warm quarter tucked under my pillow.
Back then my grandpa would call and ask for me, and invite me over
for an afternoon to help him roll pennies, fifty at a time, in brown paper tubes,
pennies that he gathered in one of the jars my grandmother would bottle peaches in,
the slow drip from his open palm over that jar, over months, like sap from an old tree.
With my quarters at home in a little cardboard bank,
and with a smile excavated to near-collapse,
it felt pointless to roll those pennies that, even taken together,
wouldn’t amount to much—but I tucked in to the table, and my grandmother let us be.
He set the jar between us, heavy as an anchor,
refracting layers on layers of one-cent scales, shimmering through the clear water of glass,
and at the table with us was the smell of the instant coffee he had had that morning,
and, under the table, the shoes he had laced up just to wear around the house, out of old habit,
plus the rich, rusty smell of not quite ten dollars in pennies
stinking our fingers all afternoon, so much like the smell of a freshly-lost tooth.
Editor’s Note: This narrative poem is rich in imagery that pulls the reader into memory where the relationship between old age and youth is presented with layered intention.
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