George Franklin
Heads and Tails

Passed from hand to hand, everyone’s
Fingers touching them, rubbing the
Edges, the milled ridges that scrape
Against a blunt thumb, cold at first,

Then warming in your palm’s center or
A pocket next to your thigh, coins
Are a promiscuous species. Some are
Older and more experienced. The effigy

Has softened, grown almost smooth, the
Legend barely discernable. Now, it’s
Just a silver disc with a story, tarnished
By all the skin that’s squeezed it, that’s

Hesitated before letting it go for some
Better thing, a bag of white rolls, a
Newspaper, a glass of red wine. Then,
There are the new ones, fresh from the

Teller’s window at the bank, the obverse
Proudly refusing to look back at you—no
Kissing on the lips—the reverse declaring
Without equivocation some piety in Latin,

Decorated with a wreath, each leaf
Sharp, pointed. How innocent they are,
Still smelling of the mint, untouched
By sweat and dirt, but already eager to be

Bartered, a tip for the server, a phone call,
A piece of chocolate. Maybe this one will be
Dropped in a moment of thoughtlessness or
Confusion and picked up from the sidewalk by

A student on his way to class, who’ll look
Closely at its scratches, its obscure symbols,
And then spend it quickly before he can
Change his mind.