New Poem

Five Bucks

The money I spend lines the register drawers
of the coffee shop, where the beveragista
thanks me for my patronage.
My crisp, newly minted five-dollar-bill
was placed next to the other currency
given to get something else. Soon, my latte will be gone.
The money I spend feeds another family,
keeps police on the streets, greases the wheels
of the political machine. Sometimes, the money I spend
works against me, some public works project
keeping inmates busy picking up trash by the side
of the road (oh, see how lovely the off-ramp looks today).
My discarded coffee cup helps the greater good. I pay to
keep America beautiful. Most days I’m convinced
the money I spend, the money that should go to charity,
topples non-English-speaking governments,
and tortures local taxi drivers for information they do not have.
There is not enough money in the world to make the world better
—it’s the law of averages. Or attrition. It’s Murphy
and his brothers Broke, Desperate, and Stupid in charge.
Will the money I spend keep the bean farmer
out of bankruptcy? Will that five bucks stretch
over the mortgage, lights, food for the family?
I open my wallet and hand the cashier my peccadilloes.
I can’t have it all, I can’t save anyone,
and I must come to terms with getting more than I deserve
but just what I expected. I have more than most
for better or for worse and for that I am sorry.
May I have another cup of coffee please?

Copyright 2006 January G. O'Neil


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