El Williams III

The Wallet

upon her death, i obtain’d my grand-
mother’s wallet. snatch’d it off the dining
room table at an idle point during
the family meeting. having fetched it many
times, many times i was a grand-
son running errands. what grandma called her
legs. be my legs for me today?

she’d say and so i put the
wallet with other relics. my mother’s journal,
papers deemed meaning-full, wedding photos and
photos of cousins we hadn’t seen in
years. the wallet. a trinket that meant
some-thing and nothing at once. in
the world of the past, where things

entered through grief, exited through longing. one
night, i heard the wallet from the
closet or it was my grand-mother’s
voice etched into memory, be my legs
for me today? she’d say or i
was dreamin’. drivin’. runnin’ in and out
of the drug-store, the grocery store,

the hard-ware store, and lastly, white
castle. i woke up in exhaust. i
woke up in sadness. i woke up
and walked in the blind-black like
a mad mummy, pushing my way to
the closet. i combed through the world
of the past, feeling for the thick,

jagged leather, hooking a finger in its
fold. the wallet and i. my grand-
mother and i. the wallet and i
rested in the dimness of night. rubbing
along its ridges, i imagin’d her thick,
healthy nails scarrin’ the skin as she
mined her purse, looking for it, digging

for it like the promise of prize.
the green body laid there the length
of a forearm fat with photos, records,
bills, cards, ads for bingo, my mother’s
i.d, great grand-father’s driver’s license. it
lied there so stiff and still, its
flap button’d, folding down like a chin.

El Williams III is a Cave Canem fellow and MFA candidate in poetry at Indiana University. A St. Louis native, he has received fellowships and scholarships from Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, Tin House and the Watering Hole. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, River Styx, Shade Literary Arts, Vinyl Poetry and Prose and elsewhere.