The very first time I threw those three flashing coins
they fell a broken line at the beginning and the top
and four solid lines between to become the dreaded
I Ching reading, Preponderance of the Great,
“the ridgepole sags to the breaking point”.

And sure enough within days there was a fatal confrontation
with my old mentor Arthur when I told him his drinking and smoking
were contributing to his wife’s impending death of rheumatoid arthritis
and he so drunk and enraged by my indeed impudent and certainly naïve
deployment of what turned out to be the truth came back in the middle of the night
to threaten to go to the Dean and the police about our marijuana use no small chump change
in those days when the drug laws were being regularly used to put people we knew away
part of the Nixon years reign of political terror.

So we ended up packing everything we owned in the back of a U-haul truck
(it was possible to rent one without a credit card in those days) and we absconded
In the middle of the night for Ohio where my mate and eventual first wife
had an Uncle Patsy who was still owed a favor by the mob from his days
in the Cleveland rackets working the slot machines so he actually got me a job
first temporarily at the Hot Dog Shoppe and then at Gen Motors new Vega Plant
working on the line spot welding one of the best paying jobs I ever got laid off from.

I was sick of college at the time anyway and my son was conceived there in Ohio
so just, perhaps, maybe it’s not so terrible bad that sometimes that old ridge pole
does collapse but to this day when I see those three pennies sitting on the shelf
by the edge of the bed I shudder to remember Preponderance of the Great.


James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.