Nickel Eclipse


Eric Gansworth

Did I tell you my brother is the Man
in the Moon? You wonder how I know
this? I have seen many things
others miss in the flip of a coin.

For example, have you seen
the Monticello nickel?
The spread-eagle quarter?
The flaming torch dime?

Even when the embossed moon presented itself riding
the sky of the silver dollar we ignored
it in favor of a balding man whose corruption will be
acknowledged someday, just a matter of time. It will be
a feature story in a back section of the Sunday
Times, no headlines necessary, why humiliate
the family, I mean, the man's dead and gone, right?
But the moon never fucked with anybody, except
maybe those driven wild in the fullness
of the month, when my brother does not smile
down on them, and leaves them to their own
animal desires, as the tides shift.

I read the Sunday Supplement every week
because Lord knows we need something
to supplement most Sundays and I see
him, between the ads for painless hair
removal systems and those for easy tanning
methods (almost everything coming
in a bottle these days), my brother.

He has the sort of face reservation Indian men
will buy a beer for.
He has the sort of face reservation Indian women
will break and enter for.
He has the sort of face city Indian men
will grow their hair back for.
He has the sort of face city Indian women
will come home to the dark roads for.
He has the sort of face reservation white men
know their wives do not long for.
He has the sort of face reservation white women
hope their men will conceive children for.
He has the sort of face city white women
are willing to pick up a hitchhiker for.
He has the sort of face city white men
Are willing to waste the beer in a shattered bottle for.
Maybe you've seen him--though he was born to our mother
in the winter of 1953, after she had fallen
down a flight of stairs escaping the first of her
two housefires while our father made change
with strangers at some bar until his pockets refused
to jingle, the U.S. Treasury knew my brother
was the Man in the Moon, foresaw his coming
earlier in the century, where before Jefferson
and his Greek revival home asserted their dominance
he graced the dully glowing face of
the country's five cent piece.

Sharp and angular, stamped
onto the flat disc, his eyes
squint so hard as to be
nearly sightless, looking straight
ahead, oblivious to that word hanging
elusively just out of his range:

They must have known what I know, now
what the Sunday throw away paper tells me,
that my brother was to grace the wrong side of
what would become the only coin
in U.S. history to be identified
by its ass end, that the nearly extinct
animal would push its way through a national
consciousness that did not want to see that Indian man
on the face of the coin, a national consciousness
that preferred E Pluribus Unum and The United States
of America to Liberty . . . and justice for all.

The paper tells me I can
for a limited time purchase twenty Buffalo
Nickels at five dollars, and honor
the noble beast so nearly endangered, no dealers
please, only one order per household.

And I run the miles of reservation roads
passing out five dollar bills at every household
in exchange for promises I know will be kept
to place orders before midnight tonight,
and when the packages arrive, we will sit
and wait for that night we all know
is coming when the full moon rises and my brother
finally smiles down on us, as he emerges
from the buffalo's shadow, while we flip
coins relentlessly into the night, watching and waiting
for the tides to shift again under his influence.

© 2001 Eric Gansworth

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