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Alan Botsford – Ⅳ

‘Save Your Nickel’ 




On the phone, our last exchange of words,

I in Kamakura, he in Phoenix, the words

out of his mouth pouring into my ears

from the line’s other end as he struggled to breathe.

Hold on, hold on, I thought, and said, I’m coming,

To see you, I’ll be there soon. My voice shook

the dust from the walls that separated us, years

wondering, Who is he? while wandering the earth

in search of the road I was already on. Look,

my wife told me, waste not another moment here.

So I departed, flung into orbit, classes on hold back

where I worked the clay of younger minds to help shape

their notions of who they were to themselves, no hope

of formalizing what I would see held out as sickle

by one come to reap all we had together sown

over the course of the journey, I bedside-bound

but late on arriving, the sister at the airport grown

unfamiliar in the distance eyed, squinting in disbelief,

the small-prop plane’s engine drowning out my tears

on the local flight to where he’d be laid like a stone,

cold to the lips, and even harder to fathom. Too late but not too

soon to hear the sound of his voice that clears

a path to forgiveness he asked from me, last son who,

having come all this way, yet not far enough

to know better, would now hold up his words in the light

of one lifetime or more later, rising like a name

out of the fires where he lay, and lays, the sight

of him, sound of him, touch of him

closer to home that he’d made and would leave

to me to make sense of, saying, Save your nickle,

before, after holding on for so long, he had to go

the way I one day would have to follow, to know

what out of the ashes comes to life, the earned

remains of loss and grieving worn like a coat

of many colors brought back as from a dream, or a note

written in the margins of a gift once given, now claimed,

the naming music we shared being this new sphere

I travel in, famed for its dross transformed, its fears burned

away, at last, to reveal not what is saved, only what’s worth