Rae Armantrout poem in Washington Post

Poet’s Choice: “Money Talks” by Rae Armantrout


Poet’s Choice: “Money Talks” by Rae Armantrout

I wrote “Money Talks” in the fall of 2008 when we were hearing that the banks that had grown “too big to fail” were about to fail unless our representatives voted to give them huge subsidies. The poem really got started when I was thumbing through Vogue magazine and saw that “bondage and safari looks” were being touted that season. I thought those were some pretty interesting get-ups for the wealthy to wear as the middle class is driven towards bankruptcy. I began to imagine a personified Money sporting such styles. If you were a CEO, it might have been a good time to go on safari. Safari outfits are usually made of camouflage cloth. You might want to escape from view. On the other hand, bondage themed clothing might suggest that Money was a helpless victim, unable to help itself (or us). This vision of Money’s ensembles concludes the first section. When I’d written the first part, the poem still didn’t feel quite finished to me, so I let it sit for awhile. Then, not too much later, I was driving in Oakland, and I saw a billboard advertising a casino. I believe it showed an image of a roulette wheel. The only words on the billboard were the casino’s name and the command, “Shut up and play!” I imagined my personified Money saying this when it was tired of lying low and being coy. Stop complaining, Money says, and get back in the endless game. You may lose your house, but the House always wins.

Money Talks


Money is talking
to itself again

in this season’s
and safari look,

its closeout camouflage.

Hit the refresh button
and this is what you get,

money pretending
that its hands are tied.


On a billboard by the 880,

money admonishes,
“Shut up and play.”