Surely the dollar I stash
in the Kerr jar marked
"College Fund"on the ice cream
counter at Mr. Pudder's
outside Sennett, New York,

will persuade the gods of July
to preserve my daughters
from famine and disease.
The five bucks I stuff
through the coleslaw bucket lid

outside Quality Markets in Erie
means McDowell's Girls Basketball
will skyhook my fortune
through the frayed net
of the cosmos to beat the buzzer.

Daily fate challenges our spot
in the Quad Cities Tourney.
Nature knocks the inner man
through the mechanized windmill's
mouse hole doorway, rebounds off
milk cans and skids up Astroturf ramps
into the clown's plywood yawn
for free games.  As surely as
the giver begs at the entrance,
the bulldog grandmother who peddles

produce in the parking lot
of Church's Chicken in Independence,
shameless of her summer squash
arms and legs, knows when
I don't buy tomatoes as bright

as the blood of August,
I trade legacies with
the destroying angel who
scrawls death sentences in graffiti
on the train trestle past

Bell Township, Pennsylvania, where
paunchy teenage girls
in obscenely skimpy bikinis
leap from tar-stained struts
and plunge into the copper oblivion

of the river, while overhead
redtail hawks scream and churn
the atmosphere in a daredevil ballet
in which the victor rakes talons
through the vanquished blue fish of sky.

Matthew James Babcock teaches writing and literature at BYU-Idaho in Rexburg. He completed his PhD in Literature and Criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  His book, Private Fire: The Ecopoetry and Prose of Robert Francis, will be
published by the University of Delaware Press in 2010.


I started this poem on a cross-country drive from Pennsylvania to Idaho.  I was halfway through my PhD program and traveling without my wife and kids (something I'm never able to do).  I began to notice how many people and groups were trying to raise money, and the money I would have normally spent on my kids started to go towards all these people I met -until I ran out of money.  This got me thinking about cosmic pay-outs and pay-backs, which got me writing.



Copyright 2009