Five Bucks & the Key to a Kingdom

By Terry Savoie

After squirreling away five dollars & squeezing them
in the toe of my shoe, hiding the wad there before
leaving the sixth floor walkup, I hung my key
on a length of string tied around my neck, grimy & black
with dirt-sweat since the temp that August was sky-rocketing
well into the high 90s & forecasted to barely miss a hundred
in the shade, a banner headline for riders on the J line
as they read the Daily News over someone’s shoulder
while trying to maintain a balance: another oppressive
day in NYC.  So I found myself marooned as the world
swirled about & threatened mightily to spin out of control. 
That was the way I traveled in ’68 in the city, five lousy
bucks crammed in the toe of my shoe & a dirty string
with my apartment key dangling around my neck
while my head drifted off into smog-clouds, all the while
thinking & rethinking what of Spinoza’s ideas I could recall
after reading a page or two last night before dropping off
to sleep.  Exhausted.  At last!  What thief in his right mind
would force me out of my thin, cardboard-soled shoes
for a few bucks, I told myself.  Home back then was ten
adults & three Puerto Rican kids stacked in four rooms,
God’s kingdom with an empty, unoccupied mattress each
morning after the night shift at the Elizabeth Arden factory in
Queens, welcoming me with my five bucks & a dirty stringed
key like a Saint Jude medal dangling down from my neck.