The second in our series of poems, “How to Know If Your .89 is Real” inspired by A. S. King’s I Crawl Through It. With thanks today to songwriters, Jay Gorney and E.Y. Harburg for their American standard, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”
“How to Know If Your .89 is Real: Number 2
When you hear your metallic tithe
hit the bottom of a swinging red bucket
and it sounds familiar–like a rhythm.
Half a million feet once marched to
the rhythm, the cadence of your hands
beating on a drum on the way home,
singing the work songs of the railroad
blended voices coming down from towers.
Two thumps in the bottom of a kettle,
it all comes back again, what they called you:
One letter short of being complete.
So, when they gesture to you from the curb
asking what you can spare, you reach
into the pocket of a rumpled khaki suit jacket
and feel for two coins. One big. One smaller.
A dime. . .and one.
Like a heart beating, wringing out the red,
like a bucket that will be spilled
onto a table downtown to be counted,
to see what it was worth today.
Paul W. Hankins (March 2015)