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a poem by polyseeme

Two thousand books, an Internet hookup, running
water, antidepressants, heat and light, frozen
food, trash—I live on the edge, I live on
in unimaginable luxury, hyperextended
with debt, goods unwaranteed like a mass-
produced glass slipper on a cushion
of profit: wages unpaid to wretched others,
no restitution to Earth’s teeming shores.
For manufacturers, fittest in artifice, Nature
seems One of the undeserving poor.

Neither Madame Bovary nor Miss Bart—the white
antiheroines to my work—I do not loll odalisque,
draped in trappings of romance, an objet d’art—but—
my creation is carried on backs of unpaid others. Sin
is a shortfall in its original language;
it is a deal for which I owe the Devil
nothing. The back wages of my sin belong to
the suffering world so loved, I cannot redeem it.
Such are the arrangements, from those who have earned it
my payment trickles away through clever diversions.

Yet if I give up even this dubious privilege,
I forfeit any chance to change—surrender
my voice, my vote, buried live and suffocating
in the milling anthill maze of survival,
bill to bill, late fees and service charges,
cancellations, reinstatements, my energy drained in pursuit
of tardy reimbursements—hardly happiness.

So I borrow from the makers of tacky trinkets
in tropical sweatshops, to pay their employers
for the privilege of doing what I do best,
for the work I love, they lend me their profits
to pay back with interest,
to keep the wolf of boredom, mental
and spiritual death, from my doorstep. I drive
the beast across borders to hovel-thresholds
they have blinded me to.
      Gautama, a prince, could walk away
and sit down, and get up wise: I am weighed down
by the soul that I owe, discredited, to those who lend to the others
on less generous terms. If they paid me outright,
they know, like Gautama I could afford to walk,
and sit, and lift the bushel off this light
and give it back: let it so shine.

What would Jesus do? Not as the hacks and corporations,
not even ones called “Christian,” to the least of these even his sheep,
his alpacas in the Andes, his savannah gazelles,
in whose name I ask, “Is the laborer worthy of
her hire?” I borrow bread from starving mouths
for work less than half I’m worth, less than the quarters
machines demand in place of communities, while
their owners and masters profit doubly from the others
and ourselves. Now I am aware, I am awake
how shall I respond, s’il vous plait? No check is in
the mail; money represents nothing
real to my Nature, nor anyone’s just desserts.

The old man sat in his office, happily watching the chaos on the wall of monitor screens. His long years of planning, plotting, spreading money carefully like fertilizer had finally produced the chaos he had sought. The world's largest economy was collapsing, and with it the surprisingly fragile social order that economy had supported. The nation's major cities were all convulsed with riots, as were the universities; everywhere, reporters were on camera with backdrops of burning buildings and mobs fighting with outnumbered police. He smiled. He'd spent most of his life working toward this goal, and it made him happy to see his life's work come to fruition. No matter how things turned out, whether his friends directing the mobs won or the forces of repression won, the nation would never be the same; the ideal of free men making free choices in free markets would be forever dead, and eventually he and his foreign friends would move in and take control, as they controlled so much of the world already.

In fact, it was almost time for him to take his helicopter to the yacht waiting offshore, the yacht that would take him to a Europe he and his friends had subdued years before (except for those stubborn, uncooperative throwbacks in England, he thought with a brief flare of anger) where he could relax in the warm sun of the Riviera and contemplate the final subjugation of the nation that had once been known as the United States. Some of his friends had talked of occupying the prostrate America with UN "peacekeeping" forces, but he personally thought that this was unnecessary; counterproductive, even. Far better to have one's friends be the faces of the New World Order and control the masses through suborned media, corrupted courts, and manipulated markets, even if it lacked the brutal satisfactions of subjecting the petty bourgeoisie to rape, murder and abuse at the hands of the Blue Helmets.

The intercom buzzed, and he pressed the button on the speaker to reply. "Yes?" There was no reply, and he began to rise from his chair. The door swung open, and a squad of Homeland Security troops entered the room, quickly moving to ensure that he was alone. He relaxed. How thoughtful of the Secretary to offer him an escort! The young sergeant in charge removed her helmet, and he stepped back, surprised by the hate radiating from her face that had been hidden behind the helmet's shield. "You are Gregor Samson," she stated flatly. Despite the baggy urban camo uniform, he could see that she was young and attractive, and he wondered if the Secretary had intended her to be entertaining, as well as protective.
"Yes," he replied, smiling and stepping forward to shake her hand. "You are my escort to the helipad, yes?"
She smiled coldly. "No. You aren't going anywhere, Mr. Samson."
His hand dropped back to his side, but the smile remained. "Surely you aren't here to arrest me? What am I accused of?"
"No, sir. We're not police, as you can see." She gestured to the other members of her squad. "Actually, we're bookkeepers."
The smile vanished. "Bookkeepers? I don't understand."
"A businessman like you should understand instinctively, Mr. Samson, what our role is. Words mean things, actions have consequences, and the books always have to balance at the end of the period. We're here to make a closing entry."

Surely her wrists were too slim, he thought, to bring the heavy pistol up so quickly.

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