At four in the morning, I might as well
be up and about, leftover mutterings
from my pre-sleep ruminations
six hours ago
rattling between me ears with REM-deprived
At four, this morning, I am
up and about, looking between clock and kitchen
window, for the first faint tinge of dawn,
we turned our clocks back last weekend,
and now nothing
for at least another month.
Television won’t help.
That much I know, so I don’t bother
with the clicker,
The book I started two days ago has lost
my interest halfway through
I’d make some tea, but my lover would love
me less if I woke her with the kettle’s pre-
One of us awake at this hour is enough.
So, at 4 a.m., I find myself counting
money. The checkbook needs balancing,
my wallet needs cleaned out,
I need to know how tight
or plump and promising a week I can expect.
I once knew a woman who always knew
exactly how much money
on her and in the bank.
I slept with that woman, too, but the only thing
that rubbed off on me was
a vaginal infection and an aversion to burgundy
She hated blue and green checkbook covers
almost as much as she resented latex —
blue and green were too bourgeois, she said. Besides,
they were the colors of her
abusive father and acquiescing mother.
Her dislike made a true believer out of me.
My checkbook covers are all blue, and I love
the smell of latex in the early Saturday a.m. hours.
I’ve found a fistful of dollar bills tucked
between deposit slips, old
and unused, in my wallet.
Right behind my one-day-at-a-time tattered,
meditation card I picked up along the path
to elusive serenity.
Calm now comes, as I count out — 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, plus a 5-er
makes 11, and one last single makes
The number of the disciples of Jesus
and the Tribes of Israel. The sacred number
of the medieval Church that chased out
the Goddess’s 13.
I find my lover’s wallet in the pocket
of her coat hung by the door,
out another single and make more holy
the haul I’ve got in my hands.
My parents used to frown when I counted
out the stash in my metal globe bank,
the many-sized chunks
of change jamming in the half-dollar-sized hole
in the bottom, as I shook the booty
onto my rumpled bedspread.
That bank had been a Christmas present
meant to distract me from the contents with all
the many-colored continents
(half the African and Eastern European country names obsolete)
drawing my attention to Rhodesia, the Red
Sea, the Northwest Territory/Yellowknife,
instead of my fiscal net worth/
It was 1972, and maybe it was okay
to collect money,
as long as you brushed up on your geography
whenever you went near it.
But I cared about the contents.
And with eager hands, I’d tug the dollar bills
through the hole, poke the coins
and set them free, sprinkling onto the cloth
Pennies, pennies, more pennies …
I separated them out, taking pity
on their different shade, paltry value, and counted
them out by date and condition
and where they’d been minted — if they said so.
Arranged before me with Lincolns facing left
like and army of brown eyes
surveying my bedroom from a central perch.
Sorting by chronology, I examined
20-year-old coins in search of traces of fingers
that had counted them, machines
that had swallowed them, sings of the myriad
cash register drawers they’d hopped in
and out of
like promiscuous teenagers making their way
through the drive-ins and lookout points
of America, ever hoping
this time might bring
Kneading those coppery witnesses to the saving
grace of commerce between 7-year-old
fingers, I needed to know where these
had been, I needed proof there was more
to the world than bell-bottoms, macramé,
Saturday protest marches, and an unending stream
of reasons to mistrust the government,
I needed to believe
if I collected enough of those small, brown
buttons — or, more importantly, the right
kind — I might trade them in someday for something
for myself. Just what that might be, was
unimportant. But it had to be
And the metal smell that clung to my hands
seemed somehow holy to me.
But that was 1972, and the smell
of money was not holy
beyond the territory of my bedspread
on Saturday afternoons.
to distrust that scent of past-present-future
hopes and dreams.
I put away my coins.
I spent my pennies, all wrapped in anonymous,
I stopped examining dates and mint marks.
Pennies stooped being coins
and turned into loose change, yet
still, the sight of a wheat penny
all these years later sends a thrill
And I make a point to keep it.
At last, there is dawn.
The checkbook is balanced, red tinges the sky,
and I lift my money-musky hand to my nose.
Copyright © 2017 by Kay Lorraine – All Rights Reserved
Depth Perception – Selected Poems by Kay Lorraine
From Depth Perception – Selected Poems by Kay Lorraine