Have a penny, hold a penny, turn a penny over
Sunday afternoons like clockwork.
In my grandparents' kitchen,
Grandpa Casey, fiddle tucked under his chin,
tapping out MacGinnerly's Reel and Skibbereen,
until the dishes clattered, cutlery splashing
silver glints on the rose petal walls.
Still small enough to fit under the table,
my cousins and I, fingers stticky with donuts,
squeezed ourselves, a tangle of limbs
into the vibrating vortex.
Tradition, my grandfather, solemn voice
recounting stories of his Ireland, centuries
of a people sown tight to the land
long after the land dried, green to dust;
potatoes, mint-new and golden, gone
black. The thousands who died
picking the wasted fields
And always, the clock chime.
Grandpa, rising slowly from his chair,
laying his fiddle carefully down and reaching
for the tobacco tin, heavy with the pennies he'd spent
a lifetime hoarding.
He let us reach in, keep as many as
one fist could hold.
I save pennies, carry the past
in a skin satchel, a smokey tin.
Stories, music, memories
passed down, gifted
as a copper coin. The earth,
nothing more to relinquish,
filling my pockets with dust.
From Tower Poetry,
Volume 54 #1