My dad used to always show me the receipts;
Birthday gifts, hotel and restaurant bills.
He liked to show how much he’d spent
As if the rows and columns of numbers meant
All the important things could be counted.
But numbers don't mean much when you’re nine or ten.
It takes a while to understand how much things cost.
You just know that something is given and something is owed,
That all things have a price
And payment is due even when the cherished things are lost.
One time I needed envelopes last minute
For the Valentine’s Day party at school.
We stopped at a drugstore but all they had
Left was a giant box of business envelopes.
There were way too many
And they were way too big
For my little bundle of pink and red cards.
It all seemed like such an expensive waste.
(Mom ran out later and got the proper kind.)
When he dropped me off at home
I clutched the crumpled receipt and wept,
Like Daisy Buchanan rifling through
Gatsby’s closetful of beautiful shirts.
Another time, just before the big split,
I slid my only twenty dollar bill under his pillow
Folded up in a note where I’d written
Kid things like I'm so sorry daddy and please don't leave.
But he never said anything about it.
Maybe mom saw it first and threw it away in anger;
I never got my money back
And I never got a receipt.