Poetry

Drachma

Laura Kasischke

I’m not interested in a single
thing in this museum case.
Not that coin, filthy, ancient.
Not that little marble phallus.
Not this tiny Isis, or this
Byzantine slave bracelet, or that blue-
green shard of Roman glass.

What I want is that
lost shoebox full of faded snapshots back.

But I moved too many times
when I was young.
Couldn’t settle.
Didn’t care.
A friend’s garage.
My ex’s basement.
A rented storage shed.

And now my grandfather is still there, waiting
in a worn-out chair, half-
awake, a book
closed in his lap. He

held strange beliefs
and drank too much.
Collected things.
He made a lot of noise
the day he died.
I was a child, not in the room
itself, but also not outside.

Years later
my mother would admit
it might have been wrong to leave a kid
in front of a television
set for seven hours, listening
to that. But I

was sloppy drunk
when she said this,
and she was dying, too, by then, and if

I hadn’t been so careless
for so long
with my possessions, I could show you now
a photo of his face.

Instead, it’s in some box I left someplace.

Some Greek soldier’s drachma, wasted.
Some Roman housewife’s broken vase.

Laura Kasischke is author of nine novels and nine collections of poetry, including Space, In Chains, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is Theodore Roethke Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan.
Originally published:
April 1, 2020

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