Kenneth Chamlee


I flip open my billfold and credit cards spare keys spill
by the checkout. Squares of papers spiral away—
health insurance, car insurance, renter’s, life—
cards for places I am welcomed and punched:
the corner deli, video and coffee shop, any place
to buy ten, get the next one free.

The smocked clerk pops gum bubbles while I drop
and scoop the license with old address,
new Visa green and unswiped, push them
back into frayed lining, hazed windows
cracked like a derelict house.

Tonight I shift pictures to a new wallet, stiff
and cow-smelling. Remove the posed three, keep
the brace-tight smile of my son. But he won’t fit
in frosted sleeves. Trim the white border; still no.

This again: love him and make him
smaller, choose which arm
to cut from his body.



The play of things trivial and irreplaceable intrigued me here, as did what our wallets say about our lives. The ever-present conflict of inclusion and exclusion, and its consequences.