Poetry Archive

Loose Change

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Loose Change

On Saturdays when I was ten, I fished
through my mother’s dirty work pants
pockets and between the sofa cushions
for change.

When she went to sleep, I’d slip out
to the market on the corner of 125th
& St. Nicholas—spend all of it
on penny shortbread cookies
with the jelly center.

Mr. Stewart expected me each week.
He handed me a little brown paper bag and said,
How many today, honey? With my own hands,
he let me count the cookies out of the huge plastic jar.
If I had enough for one hundred, he always gave me
A dozen more for free.

Grinning, I grabbed the overflowing top
of the greasy brown bag and skip out
stuffing cookies two by two into my mouth.
This time, when I got to the apartment door
I found my mother standing there,
face flushed—a mix of fury and fear.
The greasy bag fell from my hand onto the floor
like a heavy burden I’d been carrying
my whole life.  She hustled me into the door
cussing and questioning me about
where I had been and whose money
I’d stolen.  I couldn’t answer—
mouth overflowing with loose change
cookies I could no longer chew
or swallow.        


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Filed under: Poetry Archive


Jacquelyn Grant Brown is Mom. Magician. YaYa. Healer. Peacemaker. Poet. Creative. Thinker. Teacher. Traveler. Sentimentalist. She received the following degrees: B.S. Louisiana State University/English; M.A. Solstice @ Pine Manor College/Creative Writing.  Other published work by her can be found in The Rumpus, Rat’s Ass Review, African American Review and others. Recurring themes in her poems often center around family, mothering, [black] trauma & healing.  Currently, she is updating a years old manuscript for publication, making jewelry and celebrating life.