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Coin of the Realm

by Jean Armstrong

The insolvency of a nation
sits in my drawer.

Defunct Indianhead pennies,
dying buffalo nickels

make their last war
in an old tobacco tin.

Their energetic exchange,
their continental clatter

across cigar store counters,
across the Republic,

is done.
No one won.

Even my numismatic mind,
wondering what history is worth,

cannot compute their copper profit.

In paper worlds of common stocks,
they belong, no doubt, behind

the underwear and socks.


Jean Armstrong teaches at Rutgers in Newark. (Spring 1975)

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