For What It’s Worth

by Kathleen Hellen

“Find Your Fearless,” said the piggy
on the desk in separate offices
of banks of America,
its slotted breath
through white ceramic
reminding you that money
is like breathing,
that debt is death.
She was decent, though,
not the kind who tells you to
find closure, not the kind
who asks about the books
you never read to teach you
how to balance what comes in
with what goes out,
the account, when you were ten,
the piggy that you hammered for
the nickels, dimes and quarters,
and then, when you were twenty,
living check to check, never earning
interest in the statements—from anybody.
“Save a third of what you get”
(savings bonds from grandparents,
dad’s birthday presents),
your mom had said,
but you’d forget:
“This is how you save for college.
This is how you get ahead.”
The piggy never said,
“Study hard, do your best.”
She just handed you the Kleenex.


Kathleen Hellen is the author of The Only Country was the Color of My Skin (2018), the award-winning collection Umberto’s Night, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento. Nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net, and featured on Poetry Daily, her poems have won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House prize, the Thomas Merton poetry prize and prizes from the H.O.W. Journal and Washington Square Review.

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