Moneygram by Donald McGrath

Let’s start, why not, with Nanny O’Rourke
who slipped me a furred 50
the day I left for university.
“Spend it well,” she said.
The optimism of that bright phrase
has grown somewhat shopworn with the years…
Once I found a $20 bill
in the pocket of a dirty shirt—Christmas,
College and Grace, streetcars
grinding by fern-frost windows.
So I kept the tribal faith and bought
a mickey and a steak.
Fast forward now a bit: I’m rolling
coins at a table where a spouse
who’s come into a sizeable inheritance
sits drinking tea. She’s not, let’s say,
a fan of my special brand of equity.
And I’ve waited on benches outside banks
until midnight when my account
swelled briefly like a cankered pumpkin
before collapsing on its own rot.
I’ve walked with a toddler on my shoulder
through driving sleet to sell
books for diapers.
And I’ve survived attempted shakedowns
by the provincials and the feds.
So believe me when I say I’m lily white.
I’ve been spared the stain of filthy lucre.