Cheek pressed against the cordless phone, I picture
my mother in her Savannah kitchen, leaning
both elbows on the glass breakfast table as she asks
if I can send her 50 newly minted 2007 pennies.
It’s 8:30 p.m. and she wants to give them out to mark
her one-year anniversary of being sober. I can hear
the emery board filing her nails in the background.
For 20 years, I knew not to call after six. Questions asked,
stories shared before the slur of words, Merlot numbing
her senses. Now, she asks how my break-up is going.
I tell her I walked the Golden Gate Bridge. On the other
side, I threw out love letters, photographs, lingerie,
baseball caps and ticket stubs. A cool gust of air
blows the Chronicle off the table. I adjust the phone
and push down each cuticle until I can see the half moons.
My mother is silent and I know she is crying.
I hear her shift as she tells me how she said goodbye
to my father when they divorced. Alone at Gooseberry Beach,
she made nine sand castles at low tide. Each one represented
a house they’d renovated together, from frames to foundations—
homes they’d dreamed of happily living in one day.
She sat for hours until high tide washed them all away.
Do you think you can find those pennies? she asks again.
I live behind the Mint, I tell her. We laugh.
My mother’s mother taught her always to pick up a penny.
Bring luck inside. I agree with Grandma Shea. I will visit
every bank in the city to find those newly minted pennies.
I have waited a lifetime to talk with my mother after six,
like this, listening to each other through miles of cable
buried under the soil late into the evening.
—from Rattle #30, Winter 2008
Rattle Poetry Prize Honorable Mention