Age Rating: 10 +
My first one was a blue plastic poker chip,
given to me by a large, loud Negro woman
in a shanty town on the outskirts of Atlanta.
My trembling hand almost dropped it, as I looked around
the smoke-filled room at voodoo gurus and gospel junkies,
donned in zoot suits and bright banded hats.
Somehow though, I seemed to fit in,
touched by the warmth of her long pointed fingers,
folding the coin into the palm of my hand.
Back "on campus," big Tom gave me my second:
a polished bronzed one with a special seal made just for me,
the son he said he never had. What solace in those knobby hands
and that barreled chest adorned with an "AA" pendant in gold!
When I later learned he died, I kept it in my pocket for months,
till it grew heavy enough to keep my feet on solid ground.
At one year, I got the gold among my fellows at home.
Here, in a dark dank room, filled with the earthy odor of mildew and wood,
Mike R-- with ten coins and colon cancer--
raised it to my heart, while his beat to the syncopated rhythm
of percolating pots and clanging chairs, as they beamed
their hoops of gleaming gold over your raised heads and folded hands...
until it happened: they opened!
-- Your hands, your hearts, an empty chair just for me.