Poem: Self-Portrait as a Silk Purse

by Patrick Cotter

On this shelf lies a small gathering of heirlooms
from four generations. I am the oldest.
Too tiny ever to have held a fortune, my insides

are now smothered with must. Once, my worm-weaved
flesh wrapped dinging copper and silver discs,
loose parts of a prosthetic spine. I'm hardly used.

I never held many coins at once, even pennies,
even old ones, wide as an American half-dollar.
The hens pictured had clinking clucks. My fastening

clasps still open with a crispy click, their bite unworn
from years of snapping shut. Here I await my finding
by a small boy; for him to stash in my stomach


a dinky coin, a cupro-nickel bit sporting a rabbit,
inured to bouncing on many a counter, a thruppence,
pre-decimal, long past the power of purchase.

Patrick Cotter’s most recent collection is Sonic White Noise (Dedalus Press, 2021)