Dark Money
Alice Friman

Dark Money

The Aztecs used cocoa beans for currency.

10 beans for a rabbit
10 for a prostitute
100 for a slave.

What couldn’t chocolate buy?
Dissolved in rainwater and mixed
with flowers bought rites of passage
for initiates, favor from the gods.

The Aztecs had it right, that is
until the Spaniards came
selling them a bill of goods
about gold: purifying it
in Aztec blood before stealing it.

Had Montezuma been smarter
he’d have invested 10 cocoa beans
in a lady friend for Cortez,
dressed her in two maracas and a thong,
armed her with a dagger and sent her
to the general when he was on his knees
before his gold, jewel-encrusted crucifix
now on display in the great cathedral
of Seville. Sent her with instructions
to leave a gift on his chest: a bag
of chocolate kisses, each one wrapped
in a twist of silver, twisted like a knife.

Alice Friman

is the author of seven collections, including Blood Weather (LSU Press); The View from Saturn; and Vinculum, for which she won the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Award in poetry. Her other books include Inverted Fire and The Book of the Rotten Daughter, both from BkMk, as well as Zoo (University of Arkansas Press), which won the Sheila Margaret Motton Prize from the New England Poetry Club. She is professor emerita of English and creative writing at the University of Indianapolis and lives in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she was Poet-in-Residence at Georgia College.