My father's coins: they signal where he never
lived to travel, but perhaps had meant
to go, or longed to go, since duties sever
desire from both fruition and intent.
Look, this is threepence: George the Sixth in profile,
with thistles on the obverse; here, the beak
of Mexico clasping a serpent, guile
seized by winged force; here, "République
Française" haloes a maiden laurel-crowned.
And where's this champion riding, lance in place
for combat, horse's hooves on holy ground
and one proud word, "España"? This stern face
is Jose Artigas, who fought Spain for Uruguay
and died imprisoned by the French. What thoughts
must have blown through my father's hours, like high
and distant flutes! His careful figures, noughts
rounded Palmer-style, all double-checked,
kept errors out and always reconciled
to the last penny, every sum correct,
expenses paid, frail wife and his one child
provided for. But on the credit side,
what was he left with for his voyages
unmade, unspoken dreams unsatisfied?
A sense of having done it well, and yes,
love, that most fluid currency of all
whose coin is valid everywhere, the stuff
of which real wealth is made. I know he'd call
that true. One wants to think it was enough.