I am struck by the randomness of my memory, if, in fact, there isn’t some design behind what I recall from the past. “Stolen Dimes,” a poem I finished this week and posted today, has bits of the long ago that remain very clear to me.
I grew up next to a “corn field” that dramatically reflected the transition of summer, from tall green in July to yellow brown in August.
My early taste of freedom at age eight was walking a mile (probably was a shorter distance, but my legs were short and the trip long) on a country road (yes, there are country roads in New Jersey) to a two-pump gas station that featured a freezer locker-style soda machine where thick green bottles of Coca Cola hung by the neck between metal rails. I’d put in a dime and slide the bottle past a temperamental lock bar. Sometimes the lock wouldn’t open. These denials forced me to tell the gas station owner—he and his family lived above the office—that the machine stole my dime. An eight-year-old confronting a hard edged businessman is a true test of faith—that an adult would believe me and give me the Coke. “Faith” in this case was aided by evidence—the owner would open the money box to determine if “my dime” was captive. As added protection, I’d use a “mercury dime” with a specific date, as opposed to the more commonly circulated FDR dimes. Yes, I am rambling.
The Mack truck reference comes from working in the summer as a truck driver when I was in college. I drove dump trucks and moving vans that gave me a sense of power on the road. At the end of a work day, I listened to the random ping of metal from the hot engine.
As I write this I realize there more layers to this memory of stolen dimes. But this short poem captures the moments that are currently on the surface.