What’s Token

Black, of course. For light I left behind.
And the white librarian’s chary hello

because of my hand, my skin,
flat accent sliding south. This voucher—

as a paper poppy, a pink ribbon,
stands for unsuffered suffering.

The ice cubes melting in the arctic
for the coming hurricane,

the lock on the bedroom door
which sometimes kept you out

and maybe the ragged kale left by the deer,
the half tomato rejected by the slug.

Certainly, last year’s book left in vacation’s lodge
and the little heart I wore around my neck

until the Penrose Trail, the watch
you gave me when the baby was born,

all we couldn’t afford, keepsake
stolen. Children diminish

into forgotten toys—
ragged dolls and three-wheeled trucks—

and everything stands for something—
the t-shirt frayed at the neck, the sock

thinning at the heel, the heel worn
down from so much walking.

Some nights even the fading star seems
a coin for a life I could have lived

and again I am left anxious at the lavatory door,
the toll booth, the subway gate wondering

if what I have in my hand
will allow me to enter one more time.

Lois Marie Harrod’s 17th collection, Woman, was published by Blue Lyra in February 2020. Her Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016 from Five Oaks; her chapbook And She Took the Heart appeared in January 2016; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. A Dodge poet, she is published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches at the Evergreen Forum in Princeton and at The College of New Jersey. Links to her online work: www.loismarieharrod.org.