Losing My Wallet
by Roger Jones

    Even before I reached down to touch -- an instinct -- ,
    I already knew: gone. A moment before,
    I was swirling down a river of mall shoppers,
    funneled along by Christmas, jostled and pushed
    against a wall, carols breaking around us
    like ornaments -- such a power in the wallet,
    a battery without which a man feels disconnected.
    I turned and quickly tried to retrace my steps
    past stores decked in holiday sausages, windows
    with blouses, jeans splayed in lively shapes
    like the penniless. I broke into a run, pushed
    my way past the Ear Piercing Boutique, the Silver
    Shoppe, the Mean Bean Coffee Store, everywhere
    encountering faces vaguely familiar, like ghosts
    of Christmases past. At Santa's Castle,
    I saw parents lined up and holding children,
    each child cupping the small candle of want
    in its eyes. I passed all the gifts yet unbought,
    names of stores glossy as aluminum,
    until at last I dropped down tired on a bench,
    put my face in my hands and let fatigue come.
    Closing my eyes, I could hear the steady tromp
    of feet all around, until, drowsy, I could almost
    make one set walk back, and recall the street-
    corner years back where my father had opened
    the car door and helped me inside, and I had sat,
    as the heater purred, in the car's front seat,
    watching as out the frost-webbed window
    as he turned to go buy one last gift, strolling
    back toward the dim line of stores
    until the snow erased his form.

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