Ode to Pennies

by Udo Hintze

For the centennial of the Lincoln penny, 1909-2009


Bright like a jewel you shine, newly-minted
America's Atom;
Inscrutable, indivisible, and ubiquitous
The lowest of the low,
The poor man's most faithful companion.
And yet everything is made of small things;
Like mountains, armies, airplanes, and deserts
And smaller still: molecules, particles, and atoms.
The penny is a tiny seed that gives life
To the amber-colored fields of America
Thus for necessity’s sake you exist.

As pennies lie there,
Pools of copper, shining like mini-suns
Behold! in your eyes,
There is the democracy of description!
Pennies are signs of the times,
Pieces of American history,
Little time travelers;
War veterans, survivors of depressions, crises, and epidemics.
And all the past is memorialized,
Cast in the unforgiving memory of metal.
But as the years roll by,
You collect experience and pile up with layers of history.
You become obscure, burned by the fires of time
But yet life still goes on thanks to you.

The Penny is one
The penny is universal logic.
Representing the universe,
Everything turning as one,
The one who is God,
A complete individual
Who is eternal, alive, and remembers
Because rightly
There is the legend on the penny;
“In God we trust” next to
A profile picture of Father Abraham.

Pennies are the history
Of a discrete numerical value
With histories
As diverse as Americans themselves;
Pennies of the poor,
Pennies on lunch tables,
Pennies at the corner store,
Pennies in executive boardrooms,
Traveling around the country
Uniting the rich and the poor,
The famous and the unknown,
The just and the wicked,
Bringing the nation together.

One by one, pennies show
How the least valuable is still the most important.
Democracy's represented in you
Pennies everywhere of equal value,
So much like America;
Out of many, one.


Copyright © 2010 by Udo Hintze

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