Tonetta Lake: Papa’s Pennies – Kate Falvey


Papa takes you to the tracks
and lays the pennies on the rails.
The bushes are frothy with
Queen Anne’s Lace.

Fireweed and loosestrife
spindle and spike.
Some kind of nettle
has to be watched for.

Gravel plinks the steel
as we head for cover,
crushing springy buttercups
and clover as we go.

A smell, ferrous, poised,
riotously secret, beats
against his laundered
white-shirted paunch,

blending with the plump
smoke of stogies,
the bleached noon
of the sun.

It is too much to bear
when the train looms through,
freighted with its cargo
of sun-glare and excitement.

The pennies sprint
willy nilly in the grit.
A long skin of copper
is my pride.

Each one is singular,
as if alive. Three
have to be hunted
in the hot stones

and thickets. They
will be pocketed and
brought home
for the littler cousins.

But I will tell the tale.


This summer
smaller children
hold Papa’s hand.

I am welcome
to tag after.

As I follow, I notice
that the tiger lilies are
darkly streaked.

Their chambers
have kept all of the moods
of Papa and me

from summers before
when we pennied alone

Their color is the orange of
behind your eyes
when the day is done.

I nod to them
because I’m happy to know
their name.

The tiger lilies say
I can always find Papa in
their orange,

in the color behind my
watching eyes when a flamy
summer searching day is done.
I think if I sniff,
they will puff out cigar smoke,
copper, and kindness.

If I trek here
fifty years from now,
there will be

Papa and me, crouching
in the secret rumble of the
waiting air.

Kate Falvey’s work has been published in many journals and anthologies, including previous issues of Deep Overstock; in a full-length collection, The Language of Little Girls (David Robert Books); and in two chapbooks, What the Sea Washes Up (Dancing Girl Press) and Morning Constitutional in Sunhat and Bolero (Green Fuse Poetic Arts). She co-founded (with Monique Ferrell) and for ten years edited the 2 Bridges Review, published through City Tech (City University of New York) where she teaches, and is an associate editor for the Bellevue Literary Review. As a young woman she worked in a slightly sketchy bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard, mostly because she liked to read on the job and try to match customers with their book choices.

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