I line up ten pennies on your place mat,
the one that shows the inner
workings of the human body,
the skeleton, muscles, lungs,
inviolate liver and heart.
I give them to you
because I know you will crow
at them, little magpie, will finger
each cent apart from the rest, flip
it, examine it for dates, marks,
before pinching it, plunking it
into your red piggy bank.
I once pinched your pink
belly, round as a Thanksgiving turkey,
blew raspberries into your nape,
stern little Buddha, my investment, my exhaustion.
I fell onto your floor, cried your tears
with you. Now you are seven and I
have found my mother’s mask,
the crossed-arm pose, the subtle rage
of a lifted eyebrow.
I can give you these pennies because
they will make you happy. But also
because they are worth so little to me.
The dimes, the quarters, huddle deep
inside my black pocketbook. They are mine.
I give you only what I can part with.
Ten pennies will mean so little
to you, really, a moment’s suspense, the hope
that treasure lingers in mundane corners
of the day. I snap at you for stooping
to pinch up coins in busy parking lots,
quicksilver cars threatening to break
your grasshopper body. I stand in their way.
Despite my shadow, you cast yourself
as discoverer. Your blue eyes scan every
surface, searching for treasure. So this
is what I give you: copper slivers
of hope and disappointment. Your body
that flails, pulls away, skips, returns,
dangles from my arm like fruit.
What is easy, and what is hard.