excerpts from Coins

Imagine answers to various questions

as what springs to the hand of the change-maker,

the silver pan-pipe of coinage on his belt:

to owe an answer to a question,

to pay it exactly,

in pure silver.

Glistens a sovereign

from the sun’s kiss

of a high window,

every flicker,

every slide of the sun:

sparks, afterglows, cysts,

blood and dross,

ulcers and drips;

bagatines, cecchines,

gazets, knetalls,

moccinigos, portagues,

silverlings, stivers;


oh’s, vortices,

blind spots, broken wax seals,

black coins,


sun dogs and angel zits

and wormholes to everywhere.

Out of the tunnel

and thundering above the city

the rain like endless small change,

and our heads

thick as moneybags.

Violent world,

window that won’t shut –

and the dead fade back to life.

For the cap of the Sienese Girolamo Marretti

Cellini made a medal of Hercules

wrenching open the lion’s mouth;

and for Duke Alessandro

the first full-face coin in silver ever made!

– or so the Goldsmith claimed.

On another occasion,

a two-carlin coin for the Pope

with Christ reverse,

walking on water,

hand stretched out to Peter.



there were tests of his honesty, at times;

and always, treachery and violence

down every path –

but beauty curled around and into everything,


everything was gold.

Years later the Pope,

blind and dying,

called for the lovely medals he couldn’t see,

to fondle with finger and thumb,

cradle their weight

in his palm;


Cellini remembered,

as their heavy beauty kissed his hand:

the blind Pope sighing,

rubbing the mute images,

as cardinals circled

and his bastards waited in the wings.

When he was a boy,

Cellini sat by the hearth.

His father spied a salamander in the flames

and slapped the boy hard on the back of his head:

“Don’t cry, little one!”

he pleaded;

“I struck you

only to make you remember.”

In the World Aviary

of coinage:

Athenian owl,

turtle of Aegina,

colt of Corinth,

condor of Peru;

eagles like ours

as common as crows.

All hours and days bearing down, past and future, the hoarding of nows, pasts of pasts, futures forward and anterior, thens north-by-north-west, inevitables, nevers, seldoms, frequentlies, all burrowing, winging, crawling, swimming – by the time they’re nigh and soon, we smell their musk and breath, our always fuse with their eventuals, our nevers devour their constantlies.


fits the thickness of a dime.

Scattered coins

melt below the surface:

coruscation, glance and glare,

evanescence, fade and flare.

God brought finger to thumb

and in the gap he saw,

just as the circle closed,

the figment of his law.


"I loved letters and learned them quickly. Fascinated by the way they fitted together into words, I learned those, too."

(– sentences like garlands,

gum-wrapper chains,

vines and beads, necklaces, webs, strands.)

"I was echolalic till I was four."

(Paying in kind:

small change,

phrase by phrase,

as if the world were woven by its threads

into a marvelous, living tapestry.)

“I discovered the air was full of spots….”

(Not that you liked the spots

of floating words, faces, mouths,

so much as the spots

were drawn to you –

pixies, fellow-exiles

from the real;

a turnstile spins and churns

and bodies keep coming through

and going out,

but the space beyond is dark;

only the thundering trains

and the sound of the tokens

through the insatiable metal mouth.)

"One particular day, I was swinging from a tree.  A girl approached me and began to talk to me as I swung.  Her name was Carol... My face must have shocked her, as I had painted it with patterns using my mother's makeup.  I thought it was beautiful."

(In the living mirror

the reflection is detached;

light lax,

breath taut,

the body flapping like a flag.

No one here

but you:

the distance to your nearest neighbors

measured in Astronomical Units.)

"We went to Carol's house.  Her mother was shocked about the state of my colorful face.  I was surprised by her shock."

(The mirror silvers to shock

whites to surprise

grays to amazement.)

"‘Where does she live?' said a voice.  ‘I don't know.  I found her in the park,’ said another voice.  ‘I think you'd better take her back...’"

– What do I owe you?

– One pucker, an arched eyebrow,

a pout, a wink, and five squints.

– I haven’t got change –

can you break a winning smile?

"I wanted to live in Carol's world, in Carol's house.  'Where do you live?' came her voice, as she slipped away from my reality.  I stared at her, I screamed inside with frustration.  No sound came out."

"She became 'the girl in the mirror.'  Later I became Carol."

( – then back again;

but the exchange rates are too high

each way.)

1 based on passages in Nobody Nowhere by Donna Williams

Robert Lunday lives on a small horse farm in central Texas. He teaches at Houston Community College.

© Ira Joel Haber

Copyright © 2016, Otis Nebula Press. All rights reserved.