© Christopher Raine


A Penny


When I was ten,
maybe eleven,
we’d catch frogs from the culvert
at the edge of town
by the railway tracks
I can still hear
the washboard sway of barley fields
and the grinding-chattering
of grasshoppers in our ears
Carly is here too,
with his blond hair,
his perpetually red-chapped lips,
and green eyes

here we are,
wading in stagnant water
beside swaths of cattails,
poking out from the earth
like corn dogs at a fair
I smell earthy peat and sour water
mixed with the satisfying,
industrial scent of dirty oil and metal
if we had any change,
after Popeye Cigarettes
and wads of fat chewing gum,
we’d put pennies on the rails
and wait for the next train
hiding in barley like snipers,
we’d watch and wait
you can feel that train coming,
even long out of sight
a fleshy palm on the iron rail
would tell you,
long before you could see it
that’s when the pennies go down
when we’d take our positions in the field
the train would come,
the rails shaking,
the engineer blasting his horn,
the snorting bull of a territorial charge!
we’d wait
through clacking-heavy thunder!
we’d wait, until it passed,
before collecting our flattened treasures
it isn’t all that easy
to get that kind of thrill for a penny
in fact, they don’t even
make them anymore