All The Copper


Alone or clustered,
in gutters,
on corners,
gathered around payphones.

I pick up pennies.

Tails or heads up
shining or covered in muck.

Resting in my hand
from forty-five years ago
beginning, becoming
in supple brown
almost like chocolate.

Almost like wood,
but red
corpuscles passed along
daily in
America’s veins.

The penny is the only copper coin here.

I line it up next to a nickel, a dime, a quarter
on my cluttered desk.

Next to the white metals,

I recall its names:
awaiting an imminent parcel lunged from a truck bed,
body braced, buckle-kneed from the weight that is and will be.

spat out of our memory like the gnarled southern drawl
that spat it in.
The aftertaste is a disgust and shame
that lingers
leaving forty-nine pennies on a garbage can.

Old Abe
unshaven and thin,
facing east while the others
clean shaven and plump
face west.

I rub my chin,
copper wire whiskers
beginning, becoming.

I brush the coins
into my Bazooka Joe tin,
take them to the grocery store
and cash them in.

I buy potato chips,
a pack of smokes,
a bottle of wine.

I sit on the stoop,
smoking and drinking,
watching the cars go by,
like an inventory
of my umber worth.

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