Blue Nib

Penny Falls

Burnt sugar, breezy heat. White pollen 
and the carsick feeling 
of newly minted shame. 
It was gambling’s first twitch,
in a summer amusement park,
as I kept pace with a friend 
who cast away guilt money
with easy prodigality. 

                                  The arcade pumped 
like an airbrushed heart. A blue note 
minced easily into change. I let coins slide 
onto the reef of copper

thinking, variously, of my mother
how she had pressed money into my hand, 

and her tender faith against profligacy,
and the beckoning heat of summer 
and the smell of hot fat and ketchup

                                  but essentially I was lost 
to the beat of the mechanism:
the wobble of each penny

offering a universe of possibilities 
while the stubborn tide of money
stank as rich as guilty blood.

                                  On the coach ride home, 
I learned that my friend 
had taken a girl into the woods.
He laughed on the back seat
while I sat with the girl

and on the long ride home 
we had time to consider 
how both of us had fallen
and become the prizes of his day.

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