Three and Sixty-Six Years Ago: A Lost Coin

She says, ‘But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.’
~Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”

 

In a darkening corner of the garden not turned
Or planted since the summer he tilled
By hand his own packed hurt, pausing to stare
After my leaving for another weekend—
I could not not go, I’m sorry, all, to admit,
To disillusion those who wished I were more,
We all were more than clods crumbling apart
Riddled with small roots waiting to dart—
I found a small silver coin.
I rubbed it,
Obviously not an ordinary dime. So thin,
What a strange head! Hurried to transplant
The Roma tomatoes before nightfall and
Mosquitos, I pocketed it.
Next morning,
Dressed to plant peppers in last night’s jeans
I remembered. There, so tiny: 1945,
And a head with wings!
The back: a bundle, an axe and olive branch.
Misnamed a Mercury dime by Moderns
Who of course loved the god
Of tricky messages, but no,
It was meant to be Winged Liberty,
A free thinker,
And it was no man,
But a woman, Elsie Kachel Stevens,
Wife of Wallace, beloved Modern
Poet.
At once I wondered
Is she the woman
By the sea who sang
The world into order? Who wondered
About paradise in her peignoir
Eating orange slices
Near the green cockatoo?
I could see her
Sitting very still
For Adolf, the sculptor in their building
Who noticed her
Cheekbones and winged hair,
Searching her lines for the portrait bust—
A model for the coin— with careful hands
In clay and perhaps upon her own neck and face
Making material match material.

I understand how worlds are made.

Adolf gave her the bust.
After her husband’s death,
She tried to let it go.
Her daughter refused to take it
For her mother seemed so fond of it.
No one knows where it is now.
Pawnshop? Attic?
Bottom of the Hudson River
Where she once stood pondering
Him and a blue heron flew?
It is lost,
But her winged head
Was in my garden, thin soft silver
Gashed twice by my own hungry shovel.
Tomatoes send quiet roots
Into soil that once held her.
The new garden holds me, alone,
Sitting quietly in the morning,
Eyes woven green with gentle windy leaves.
Overhead, on a wire, a pigeon sings.

2011

One Response to “Three and Sixty-Six Years Ago: A Lost Coin”

  1. wit says:

    Oh, how you travel whilst I sit here in dusty, untilled dirt. Glorious. What would that dime buy, then, and now?

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