Friday, April 4, 2014

NPM: The Economy Rescued by My Mother Returning to Shop

P. Piglia, Shopping Angel
Poetry is often employed to the same purpose as editorial cartoons: putting a complex social issue into clearer perspective. The cartoonist uses his or her art to strip away the chatter and statistics, expressing the pith of the matter at hand by giving it a face and a snappy one-liner or two. He or she improves our understanding of the issue by condensing it. The political or "editorial" poem, on the other hand, is best used to subtilize our understanding of an issue.

Case in point: this piece by C.K. Williams, printed in the New Yorker of December 9, 2013. As much as I value consistency in formatting, it appears in a Times font rather than Courier so as to preserve the lines' unusual length and the breaks as they appear in print. (Not that anyone would notice the difference, but...)

The Economy Rescued by My Mother Returning to Shop
C.K. Williams (1936 – )

I sleep as always these dark days aquiver I awake atremble my limbs jerk I thrash like a
            gaffed shark
no not shark too many sharks already fiscal financial that's why gullible guppy I was I
the boom wouldn't bust the bubble not burst shred leave us hanging over this thorny
            dollarless void

Markets staggered sales down the chute confidence off the cliff the aisles of the box stores
            and chains
depeopled ghost towns even the parking lots empty the lane lines in martial formation like
stripped of their feathers signalling for interstellar relief how not quiver not jerk
            and thrash?

Wait don't give up too soon here comes my mother back from beyond and she's going to
Avid sharp-eyed alert gleaming and beaming as she always was on our old bus expeditions
with a vigilance keen and serene and hands entities sentient and shrewd cunningly separate
            from her

evolved to analyze things' intrinsic or better overlooked worth as they collate the goods on
            their racks—
a blouse in silk and on sale!—which she shows an admiring mirror and opens her wallet
            and buys
buys as that president told us we should though only my mother has sufficient passion to
            effect this

Didn't I once watch her unwrap a pair of new shoes to inhale the scent of their
            unblemished soles
and in the very next quarter didn't the G.N.P. begin to stir the number of long-term
            unemployed slip
because of my mother's single-minded devotion to the subtlest aspects of commerce and

And all this after growing up poor in my grandmother's half-starving canned green-pea
and after surviving Depression and War how did she garner so much abstruse lore on
how accrue so many practical speculations about what we'd need to correct these failures
            and flops?

Delighted the gods of money must be to behold her again as she conveys herself through
            their portals
Here's ingenious Hephaestus devising for our enchantment his gadgets and gizmos and
and here Hermes publicity market sales (not Herm├Ęs shrine for the rich and
            pretend rich)

and vast Hades who lurks in the fear beneath all waiting to drag us down to the
            realm of dire want
where a hound with three heads a banker's a hedge-funder's an under-prime mortgage
snarls as my mother who once filched from her sister coins she didn't have to buy me an
            ice cream

croons as she crooned then Make it last and retires to her couch and opens her credit-card
and pays isn't it splendid to be able to pay for your new skirt your sheer stockings your eau
            de toilette
and so redeem the Dow and the Nasdaq and hallow us all for our humble hungers our almost
            innocent greed?

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