for my father
Not long before you passed over,
I telephoned. I’d been posting
an airmail letter and received, in change,
a Mercury dime—silver, incredible.
Minted before the time
you gained your paper route,
this coin had slipped out of its era
into our age of base metal.
Father, passionate numismatist,
we used to use your flip-up loupe
to examine mint marks
on Standing Liberty, count
kernals of grain on wheat pennies,
marvel at the engraver’s banner
over the dollar bill’s Divine Eye:
I profited by your sight and insight.
Can it be chance that this disk
of Mercury, guider of souls,
came into my hand with his winged helmet
just before your departure,
before it again disappeared, and you stole
away, quicker than the silvery moon
slips through a slot in the clouds,
or a coin drops through a dark crack
in the floorboards? No obol under
your tongue, you were tendered to flame.
Now your name is new-minted in song.