It used to be good luck to find one.
Some were steel, some had the profile
of an Indian. Boys pressed collections
into the round slots of blue folders.
Now they are trash, a nuisance, stored
in cans and jars till they’re rolled for the bank.

Listen, kids: this copper-colored disk
could transform a summer morning, redeemed
at the corner store for a paper strip
of candy dots in four colors,
a wax bottle of grape or cherry syrup,
or a crunchy, peanut-flavored Mary Jane.


My favorite in the box of 64 was Prussian Blue,
rich with its hint of green, blue enough to suggest
an exotic 19th-century militaristic world.
I’d have colored everything Prussian Blue—
except tree trunks, hands, and faces—but it had to be
carefully rationed lest, its paper stripped away,
it would wear down to nothing. Without it:
prosaic Umber and Sienna, Yellow-Green,
the all-but-useless White. Adult life, I assumed,
is when you own all the Prussian Blue you’ll ever need
to color anything you want.


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