Dirty Pennies Lyrics by Erik Petersen


“Dirty Pennies”

In a small town where all knew all, wondered a peasant lady nobody knew,
But her only friend was a young boy, brought her hot tea and leftover stew,
In those burnin’ wintry Decembers, he’d pick dirty pennies up off the cold street,
And while his mother was out Christmas shopping, he’d say, “Come on in, warm your feet.”
As long as you share with me stories, so she spoke on the product of war,
My mother never knew who she could be, as my father lay drunk on the floor,
And she spoke of the cart that she wheeled, had keys with no locks,
and guitars with no stings, and a puzzle that could never be finished,
But this is my home, and these broken things are…

But the boy went on to be taught in the schools,
to not talk to strangers and don’t feed the fools,
Grew older and further and over-forgot,
as she was forced to move from lot to lot to lot,

She said, “I guess it was much in his nature to become an Enforcer of Law,
My old friend’s got a gun to protect me from the rock-tossing drunks from the bars.”
“Oh, he seemed like the sort to help others, so I’ll find him while he’s on the beat,
and say ‘Remember me, I’m the old lady you’d give the pennies you found on the street?'”

When she found him she saw not the young boy who dug for the roots of her junk,
She came face-to-face with a stern, vacant soldier, grinning and spinning a club,
He said, “Don’t you know that you can’t be here?
You’ll hurt business and scare away the kids.
Go wander around in some other town; get out or I’m taking you in.”

“But officer, I fondly remember you –
young boy who would give me the leftover stew,
would take me inside to the warm fire coals,
and those hundreds of pennies bought me all these clothes.”

It’s against the law to peddle
It’s against the law to eat
It’s against the law to have nothing more than the shoes full of holes on your feet
And now they’ve put bars across the park benches, so I guess it’s illegal to sleep

They buried something inside of you, Officer
Into your cold heart, dig deep
And you’ll see that it’s me
And here I’ll be, nothing new to me
I’ll be heartbroken and cold, frozen and alone
My coffin was a dumpster and I didn’t even know

But while out on the beat, he looked down to the street,
and he saw a dirty penny heads up at hid feet
And it made him think of an old tall-tale of an old woman who pushed ’round a cart,
And the boy who fed her and helped her, knew he shoulda deep in his heart
…But where did he hear that old tall-tale?
But hey, what a story to spread
So he told it to his own growing boy, once in a while before bed

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