“One buck then would be like ten bucks now.”

Doubled over, broken flat, and pressed
In through a slit no one could see, the bill,
Latent behind his Rail Clerks Union card,
Had spent its life in darkness, waiting till
The day he put my loyalty to the test.
Out came Jackson’s frozen pompadour,
That gray meringue piled on the hickory-hard
Face; now I was a co-conspirator
With someone who had only fathered me
A scant eight years before. His whisper made
A big boy out of me, but even more,
A child of him: “Your mom will never see
This. Just the two of us.” Grisaille-and-jade,
It went back in, its crease a razor blade.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 36 Number 6, on page 28
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