The Money Beasts


Nora Naranjo-Morse

I marvel at cashiers,
        How they handle those money beasts called
                cash registers.
Fingernails dipped in red polish,
punching incredible sums
with familiarity and skill,
picking from the beast's belly,
        amounts dictated for return.
Fantasizing what it would be like,
        if I too were entrusted with a company uniform.
                Suited in a two-piece polyester
                        of brown and gray,
                        allowing me into the inner world
                                of fifties and hundreds.
Patiently waiting as customers
        forget cash
                or drop change.
Handling the uncomfortable message
        with directness . . .
"Sorry ma'am, we can no longer accept your checks."
This to the embassassed housewife,
children in tow,
whose only recourse is to leave the store,
The housewife exampling to other customers,
correct protocol in feeding the money beast,
        lest they suffer the same humiliation.
Loyal employees would quickly label me,
        Questioning my true allegiance,
        as I side with customers
        whose purchases exceed their coupons.
Occasionally allowing kids with candy
        to slip through the counting grate,
        supplying myown change for their sweets.
Sooner or later I would get caught,
        stripped of my uniform
            forced to join ranks with the housewife.
My only allowed participation.
        to feed the money beast.
I marvel at cashiers.

From Mud Woman, Poems from the Clay , University of Arizona Press
© 1992 Nora Naranjo-Morse
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