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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