laurel garver



The Lost Coin


My quarter pings

in the coin-filled

guitar case.

A chill streaks

up my spine.

What have I done?


The tiny Peruvian dude

goes on jamming

intricate Andean riffs

on “White Christmas,”

notes bright

as the pattern

on his poncho.

I nod along

with the song,

eyes glued to those

shiny coins,

my last treasure

among them.


I clench a fist

in my pocket

to still my fingers

that itch to twirl the coin

over and under,

to stroke the tiny tree

on the tails side,

its spreading branches

rubbed pink in places.


“Hold on to it,”

Dad had said,

“So you always know

where to find me.”

Weeks I searched

For secret messages

In the raised letters:


Simple, silly quarter

Dad had “magically” pulled

from my ear

before he shouldered

his camera bag,

headed out:

His first business trip

in sixteen years.


And his last.


The song’s final chord

shivers in the cool air,

shimmery as the sea

of coins reflecting

holiday lights.

Peruvian dude glares,

slings his guitar

over his back

and bends to snap

his case closed.


I crouch beside him,

hands clasped

to my chest like Mary

in a crucifixion picture,

and beg to exchange

his shiny coins

for my wad of bills.


“I no make change,”

he mutters and

trippingly trots down

subway steps.


Before I can follow,

A hand clasps mine.

Grandpa says, “Come, love.”

And pulls me

into an almost hug

that smells of moss

and peppermint

and sheep that

push spotted faces

through fence rails

to bleat at you.


I cast a long look behind us,

where more of Dad has been lost.

Gone underground.


Passing faces blur

like a soggy watercolor.



Laurel Garver writes poetry and young adult fiction and edit a scholarly journal in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Flashquake, Motley Press, Poetry Forum, About Such Things and is forthcoming in Rubber Lemon. An indie film enthusiast and incurable anglophile, Laurel blogs at


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