my parents used the term from money         it meant a lineage
but I envisioned a woman emerging naked and fully formed

from sierras of unmarked bills            there was no derision
in the term but an understanding that she was not like us

she had not worked a day in her life          she had never worn mittens
with holes in them            her house had central heat instead of a wood stove

she knew how to shuck an oyster           always knew which fork
was appropriate            there was a lot we knew that she could not

but it was understood that these were Pandora kinds of knowledge
I asked if it was better to not have money           then have it but they said

it was more elegant to come from money            the nouveau riche
they said suffered from the one great affliction        a lack of manners

I said it doesn’t seem like the bad kind of suffering         they said
you’re too young to know what shame is            but you know I said

they argued behind the closed bedroom door once about a prostitute
I envisioned the prostitute             naked on sheets

of crisp hundred dollar bills             I understood even then that money
and sex were cousins            though the order of the transaction confused me

the art of the deal              how to get what you want
withhold whatever has value             my father kept secret

that he was starting another family              we could have
with a little detective work sleuthed it out               rule number one

follow the money              people will do terrible things to get it
my half brother was born               no—           he was practically minted

Copyright © 2017 Ross White. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2017.