Small Change

(third place winner)

Sandra Lindow

Daylight saving has ended
in an account called Indian summer,
those scant gold days
after first hard frost.

Counting on this day
of transient light, I walk home
noting small change: darkness at the edge
of aster petals, milkweed pods,
broken, and the years slide by
like Sunday School money
I once counted with my father.

I was small change then, smelted
in the deep heat of  his rages,
burned bright by his scorn,
balanced on the wobbly
edge of his regard, confounded
by his sometime goodness.

Years later at his funeral,
I saw him leaning nonchalantly
against the sanctuary wall,
waiting for the service to end,
anger burned away
by cancer’s big C-change,
his final days consumed
by compassion for his caregivers.
I almost forgave him then,
but my own anger held tight
like coins fisted too long to let go.

Five years have passed
since his last autumn.
Saturday’s windstorm
has stripped the cottonwood.
of its leaves. Against an unexpected
blue sky, a trembling few remain
at the top, glittering like gold coins,
their brittle, diehard attachment
offered to the heavens.
I unclench my fists, finger by finger,
opening the final gold of the day.

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