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The Empty BedTo Janet Buck's previous piece     Turning FishTo Janet Buck's next piece

Lost Nickels

At the measly age of four,
I watch my father change the sheets.
Strip the bed as if he's 
paper-shredding flowers.
We'd learn to do the same with death.
Teach it to disappear
like nickels that never come back.
Corners are tight, cases are pressed
by the steam of a hired maid.
I wonder if she forgot this job --
or rightly assumed this ghost 
was a Cyclops he'd have to address
at blood-letting forks on orphaned roads.

Your body is under the earth 
with worms that will surface
after a vaporous rain. 
He knows you won't.
No quarters, no bounce. 
Just acres and acres alone. 
The mattress has holes from cigarettes
he quickly hides with rustling leaves,
his sweat-drenched palms now carapace.
The burn will stay an iron secret --
stay a bridge we will not cross.

I grab a pillow from his hands,
catch fading whiffs of sweet Chanel.
The bottle was empty -- I stole it
from your vanity to keep your scent.
Wrapped it in my leotards,
hid it in a bottom drawer,
not sure if its cap were Byzantine gold
or junk mail from an angry god.
Snakes of black limos are gone --
long before I'm old enough
to take a foot, kick a tire.

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