Why Do We Have Money?

Because we built banks
      and banks are houses

we stuff with money,
     then wonder where it went.

When I wash the applesauce jar,
     to put your money inside,

I mean for you to see it—terrarium
     of growth and potential, experiment

in value added, for how else
     to understand the glass walls

of money? A lesson never really learned—
     (I almost wrote earned). You put

money in a jar, in a bank,
     and is it yours? Where does it go?

You take it out and place it into the open
     palm of the ice cream truck driver

for a strawberry shortcake bar,
     because it’s your dad’s favorite,

and so, yours now too—money is like that,
     for a time. It costs $4 from the truck,

$1.25 from the store, and 50 cents
     from the freezer of my childhood.

What a steal! What a bargain!
     And I didn’t (couldn’t) even

know it then. I’ll trade you lick
     for lick and still not get any

closer to eating the whole,
     and when I give it to you,

(because nothing I consume is mine
     alone) it runs sticky-sweet

down your chin, your arms,
      your shirt worn exactly once,

ruined. My mother used to say
     “wash your hands” after touching

money, but to be real, you might only
     know it in plastic. (You should still

wash your hands). Already, the glass jar,
     an exhibit in a museum of money

next to the ceramic pigs, pillowcases,
     mattresses, briefcases of money.

My mother used to say “money doesn’t buy
     you happiness, but the lack of it

can make you very unhappy.” For a time,
     I couldn’t understand how

something full of germs and grime
     could also be something you’d want

so much you’d bet your life upon it,
     or if not that life,

then the life you bought with it,
     or the life you’d show others

you think you have with it,
     or the life someone else

wanted you to have with it. Somewhere
     in all that between desires

and survival, memory and projection
     is the jar. Don’t forget about the jar.

Your job is to believe not that it exists,
    but how much it’s worth.

Sara R. Burnett

Sara R. Burnett is the author of Seed Celestial (2022), winner of the Autumn House Press Poetry Prize. She has published in Barrow Street, Copper Nickel, PANK, RHINO and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Maryland, and a MA in English Literature from the University of Vermont. Previously, Sara worked as a public high school English teacher. She also writes picture books. She lives in Maryland with her family. Her website is: www.sararburnett.com

Why Do People Die?

Because eight billion people multiplied forever is too much.
Because you and me and the daffodils we planted last fall mostly came back.
Because be reasonable.

                                      Mayflies only live for a day.
And monarchs know where to migrate without ever having been there before.

Because when you ask, what I hear you really asking is Could you? Could I?
Because the sound of your footsteps on the stairs are those I’d know anywhere.
Because the moon of my mother
                                     is also the moon of you, my daughter.
And the sun will burn into a giant red ball, but not in our lifetimes.

Because even when the tomatoes are ripe, the kale has bolted.
Because I couldn’t stand the thought of that spider’s sac of eggs hatching on our porch.
Because I found the golden strands
                                    of your hair on my hairbrush this morning.
And the doctor, looking at us both, said genetics doesn’t favor that combination.

Because do you remember
                        pulling the bedsheets over your head pretending to be invisible?
And me pretending not to hear you giggling underneath?

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