From A Million-Dollar Bill


Watermelon Seeds


            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.