From A Million-Dollar Bill
Setting the first icy slice on my paper plate, my mother warned me
not to swallow watermelon seeds. A vine would sprout from my navel.
For the rest of my life, all would ask only about the fruit sprung
from beneath my shirt, waiting for my curved, slender sentences as long
as the flourishing vine. All I know is this. A tough cord
of broad leaves burst from my belly. Flowers folded into fruit
and swelled with wet, pink flesh, sugar, and light, every one a world
within a smooth, striped rind in a green as deep as summer.
Each slick, black seed between sticky fingers was as ripe with promise
as a period, all those flat, black dots, an ever-lengthening ellipsis
leading to a day I might speak of the mystery erupting from my guts.
All summer, I swallowed every seed.
Matching Coffee Mugs
At first light, a francolin calls in the field. The cat watches us wake,
speaking the moment our eyes open. Windows pale, and we rise
to start our morning chores. We work together. You feed the cat.
I make the coffee. I set our matching mugs on the kitchen counter,
your name on one, mine on the other. We shower. You carry
spiders in cupped hands to the door and release them in the roses.
I follow you and check the papaya tree. One is ripe. In the dawn,
the skin is golden. You stand by me, and we gaze at the mountain
where the sky glows. The sun soon will reach the ridge. Inside,
I bring bowls and spoons to the table. You tie the curtains back.
A cardinal lights in the kiawe tree. Our eyes open to each other.
I slice fruit on the board, and you toast the bread. I pour coffee
from a brimming pot. You drink from my cup. I drink from yours.
A Million-Dollar Bill
on hearing of the incident in North Carolina
Nobody at Wal-Mart knows anything about the really high
denominations of bills. After all, those red-jacketed losers
work for minimum wage, and they probably never even saw
a hundred-dollar bill. I have. They’re real pretty, especially
those new big-head Franklins. A million is a magic kid-dream,
like “I wish I had a million dollars.” There must be a bill for that
beautiful number, so I made one for me. The one thing I can do
is draw, so I got some green ink-pens, measured a piece of paper
with a dollar, and went to work. I copied numbers and signatures
from the one I had and added all the warnings, seals, and capital
Latin quotes. I traced lines and designs, every word: “This Note
is Legal Tender for All Debts, Public and Private.” That sounds
official. I even used Bill Gates in the portrait. Who else, right?
The face and backside took me a month of Saturdays to finish,
but when you’re making something valuable, you take your time.
Plus, you know, the wife and kids were driving me crazy, five kids
dragging me to soccer games and malls and drive-thru windows
all the time. And I always need to keep a little peace with the wife
or at least hold life down to a dull roar. Now, folks will be joking
about that. One reporter said a million is like me and my family,
one trailed by a bunch of zeroes. Funny. At the store, I needed
to spend enough to make the bill convincing, so I loaded the cart
with a microwave oven, thirty or forty rolls of toilet paper, some
toothpaste, dog food, a gross of Pampers, and some new DVDs,
Ocean’s Eleven, The Great Train Robbery, and The Italian Job.
The wife’s been wailing for years for a new vacuum cleaner,
so I picked one of those up, too. When I got to the check-out,
I handed over that beautiful bill, green with patience and promise,
and while the cashier held my work up to the light, I stood there
in line, grinning, thinking about all the change coming my way.