"Cash Value" - Alex Johns





"Cash Value" - Alex Johns

I accidentally dropped a nickel in the trash,
paused, thought, then opted not

to put in my hand.  You might have done the same.   Hell,
it's five cents slightly defined by President Lincoln's profile,

my dad with his bald head and prominent nose
watching the evening news
silhouetted in the window
was identical to that of 
George Washington on our quarter,

the amount an elderly neighbor paid me at ten 
for mowing his yard.

History's face made monetary,
denominations of five forever associated with
the Great Emancipator's
voiceless words over a print of Gettysburg.

By this point, an attentive spender would have remembered
that Lincoln is in fact on the empty penny, that thick nickel
belongs to Jefferson, the slave owning lecher,
wealthy expert in political theory,
etched in the pantheon
of rich dead white men.

My fellow Americans,

I was living in the Balkans
during what some called a civil war.
What it was was genocide

for nothing more than
creeds and bloodlines,

Beelzebub's ugly mug out in the open.
Saw a priest pour holy water 
on prepped artillery shells.

A boy on the street handed me a handful of bank notes,
thick as a deck of cards,
hissed in perfect English,
“Here, Yankee, wipe your ass with these.”


(photo by Michelle Castleberry)

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