The School Bag

Behavior of Money

Bernard Spencer

Money was once well-known, like a townhall or the sky
or a river East and west, and you lived one side or the other;
Love and Death shocks,
but for all the money that passed, the wise man knew his brother.
But money changed. Money came jerking roughly alive;
went battering around the town with a boozy, zigzag tread.
A clear case for arrest;
and the crowds milled and killed for the pound notes that he shed.

And the town changed, and the mean and the little lovers of gain
inflated like a dropsy, and gone were the courtesies
that eased the market day;
saying, ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ was saying ‘enemies.’

The poor were shunted nearer to beasts. The cops recruited.
The rich became a foreign community. Up there leaped
quiet folk gone nasty,
quite strangely distorted, like a photograph that has slipped.

Hearing the drunken roars of Money from down the street,
‘What’s to become of us?’ the people in bed would cry:
‘And oh, the thought strikes chill;
what’s to become of the world if Money should suddenly die?’

Should suddenly take a toss and go down crack on his head?
If the dance suddenly finished, if they stopped the runaway bus,
if the trees stopped racing away?
If our hopes come true and he dies, what’s to become of us?

Shall we recognize each other, crowding around the body?
And as we go stealing off in search of the town we have known
— what a job for the Sanitary Officials;
the sprawled body of Money, dead, stinking, alone!’

Will X contrive to lose the weasel look in his eyes?
Will the metal go out of the voice of Y? Shall we turn back
to men, like Circe’s beasts?
Or die? Or dance in the street the day that the world goes crack?