1950's Charms from Vending Machines
    (Collected in Glen Oaks, Queens, NYC)

Collecting Charms

Four-leaf clovers are scarce,
but the plastic ones in horseshoe
from vending machines are common
that nobody wants them in trade.

Whistle, elephant, racecar charms,
compass pointing to the true north,
alphabet letters in demand
if they bear your name initials.

But scarciest charm is the light bulb
that glows in the dark, few have got.
There's a weekly ritual in Glen Oaks—
unwanted charms are thrown away

up in the air, and those who
catch them are the new keepers.
Susan has an extra light bulb
she's parting with, and a big crowd

gathered around her— I stayed back,
having been told she'd toss it in
the grass so it won't crack hitting
the sidewalk— that's how I received

my first light bulb, placed under
my pillow— glowing in the dark.
64 years have flown by since
that event, and now I realized

she loved me— tapping my bottlecap
gently in Skully, not blasting me
away, sharing the secret pathway
to backyard via storage bin tunnel.

Her older sister Gloria was more
popular with the boys, but to me
Susan's prettier with short curly
brown hair and dark soulful eyes.

Don't know where those charms went—
but the charming girl gone— priceless!
She's fresh in my memory lanes—
a treasure from the river of life.

    — Peter Y. Chou
        Mountain View, 3-21-2021