Too Much Silver
The Kennedy half dollar, first minted…intended as a memorial to the assassinated…President Kennedy…was authorized by Congress just over a month after his death. Use of existing works by Mint sculptors…allowed dies to be prepared quickly, and striking of the new coins began in January 1964.
That spring, we made kites in scouts,
yellow paper pasted over wooden crosses.
I painted the Trinity in the three corners
above the tail. The Holy Ghost bird.
Father and Son, Kennedy in the middle.
In the swampy field next to St. Mark’s
with no wires overhead, we raced across
long stretches of spongy brown grass
letting out string. Late March, Detroit,
snow retreating to dirty clumps.
Still tangled in grief I half-understood--
with spring training and how far
I could throw whatever I could lift.
I won the half-dollar for getting
my kite up quickest. Before it crashed
in a sudden swoop. Wind out of nowhere.
What we couldn’t see could
hurt us. I squeezed the imprint into
my palm. Young face fixed on a coin.
The government stamped them out,
and America hoarded.
Briefly, our fragile hopes rose
against clouded sky above the flat field
and our runny noses, red fists, clipped shouts.
Broken kites wilted wet with yellow
surrender. I’d felt a faint flash of tenderness.
I wanted to be lifted up. Scouts wasn’t
about goodness. We briefly reigned in
badness each week. The leader, angry
with damp cigarettes, sent us home.
I spent it on baseball cards, my familiar heroes.
Fifty cards for one shiny coin. Kennedy
handed over. The clerk eyed me close, slipped
the coin into her purse.
New season coming on. I stuffed my mouth
with pink slabs of gum. The future was tomorrow--
Sunday church, more droning for the dead and dying,
and prayers to the one who came back for our sins.
If you can’t come back, if somebody acts
on a mad idea, if they put your face on a coin,
how long before greed buries you? Too much
silver in those early ones from 1964,
when sorrow carried its heft into spring.
I had a lot to learn and would not be learning
it soon, even in a muddy field of angry boys
who claimed I’d cheated.
Fifty baseball cards—faces flicking
as I sorted by team. At ten, I still feared
thunder, lightning and the wrath of God,
somewhere keeping track, profile unknown.
Kennedy half dollar. I splashed reckless
and fast through the field. The string cut
my cold fingers. I won my first coin.
Life was over.
I Clipped My Nails
but still feel insane,
my Cheerios lacking
cheer, burping back.
What’s the big deal
with floating anyway?
Air bubbles out my inner tube.
I once tried to calculate
the cost of dreams.
Nostalgia for the bruised lips
of something to say. Whirl-
pool funnel, its mad sucking
through milk, thirst.
Big G little O. GO.
I clipped my nails.
That usually ends things.
Not tonight. I think
my toes have fallen off
due to excessive moon-
walking or just plain
mooning. I don’t mind.
I press fingers into each other
in the dim light of discarded
quarter moons. Some pretend
to forgive every thing.
All that bile sloshing around
sours the heart. I still
admire the heart, unclipped.
It’s more division than
addition these days, dreams
sliced dry, exposed to rot
in the backyard graveyard.
The willingness to share
when the box is empty.
And now a word from
our sponsor, the wind:
Hiss. I believe our nails
have a lunar component
and that Jesus could
have been my friend
if only we hadn’t drowned
together, way back when.
Copyright © March 2021 Jim Daniels
Jim Daniels’ next book of poems, Gun/Shy, is forthcoming in Fall 2021 from Wayne State University Press. Other recent books include The Perp Walk (fiction), and the anthology he edited with M.L. Liebler, RESPECT: The Poetry of Detroit Music.