His hands are sweaty as he flips
the coin into the fountain.
It smells like the French fries he ate for lunch
and the insides of his pockets
and makes the pond water the slightest bit salty.
The change-piece sinks deeply into the murky water
past octopi and wild starfish
and other make believe lagoon creatures
and in my scuba gear and snorkel and water-waders
I find it lying sideways,
tails facing the sky.
He had wanted something desperately
and squeezed the quarter so tightly
(as if it were his last wish)
that he dented Washington’s face with fingerprints.
He must have needed a miracle to throw money
into a large body of Adam’s ale
complete with water features.
I don’t visit often,
just for wishes that are incredibly important;
mostly because I can’t hold my breath very long
and quarters get awful heavy in a set of thousands.
But not merely a request for more ketchup,
this piece o’ 25 is special,
though that might be the French fry residue
left on the edges of metal.
I take his coin and carry it to the nearest butterfly.
It cries its wish in such a high-pitched voice
that only the majestic insect can hear it.
She transcribes his request (at the incredible speed
of a thousand wingbeats) beneath a streetlight,
flying shadow shapes on the ground.
Luckily it is just the right time of summer
that a child in the high mountains
staying up far past her bedtime
catches the flighty handwriting
and instead of thinking
“What an odd butterfly,”
“I wonder if it’s trying to tell me something”
(for she doesn’t know the butterfly is a “she,” not an “it”).
Then she takes the insect’s words
and writes them (complete with spelling errors)
on a torn-up piece of tapestry.
She flies it high on a flagpole
until a passerby with means,
or a genie,
or a whole lot of money
sees the request
and grants the wish.
It’s just that simple.
It sounds like an awful lot of work for just twenty five cents
but we’re not in the business of making money.
It’s worth it to fulfill a boy’s terribly grown-up wish
to hold his sister again.
Note: This poem was inspired by Tibetan prayer flags – a symbol of peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Tibetans believe that prayers and wishes are blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion.
– Comu Ventu & Anansi the Poet