Oct. 29, 2005

Money Medicine Poem

by Martin Steingesser

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Poem: "Money Medicine Poem" by Martin Steingesser, from Brothers of Morning. © A Deerbrook Edition, 2002. Reprinted with permission.

Money Medicine Poem

$11.3 million, what does James Mellor of General Dynamics do with it?
In how many beds does he sleep?
I want to know, how many breakfasts does he eat?
$11.3 million-that is every year, year after year.
What does he do with it?
James, how many copy machines do you have?
How many shredders?
Do you keep one in the bathroom?
How many suits do you own?
How many closets for the secrets money keeps?
Secrets? Does money keep secrets?
Year after year, 11.3 million.
Why so much in corporate pockets?
I need a chant to bring dollars back in my life.

Om Bram Brie Hasti Paté Yea Na Ma Om

I need a moon to draw the oceans of money back.
What does AT&T executive Bob Allen do with $9 million in stock options?
It's a great system we have.
Secrets? What secrets?
AT&T lays off 40,000 workers.
Robert Allen, you must feel like a god.
Robert Allen gets $9 million.
What are you building out of our conversations?
What is your phone number, anyway?
Will you answer a call?

Om Bram Brie Hasti Paté Yea Na Ma Om

How do we reach corporate dynamos to buy girl scout cookies?
How do we call when we want to rent a bus for the school picnic?
How do we call when the soup kitchen's out of soup?
How come big bucks stuff so few pockets?

It's a wonderful system we've got, all our money on the top floor,
corporate executives calling the truths we live.
Families of gods, like up on Mount Olympus, great scraperskies of CEOs.
One of them markets 100% water for juice,
another mainlines cigarettes,
another the medicines for smokers,
another pumps cancer into rivers and lakes, into oceans of air,
another lobbies for tax breaks to clean up the mess.
Great system we've got, billions stuffed in so few pockets.
I want a chant to bring the dollars back—

Om Bram Brie Hasti Paté Yea Na Ma Om

Give me those pants with money pockets,
closetfuls of pants, big bucks in the pockets.
Lean back, feet up, have a million dollar stogie,
Blow giant smoke rings over Broadway.
I want a chant, put the moon back in my pocket.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of James Boswell, born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1740). He is best known as the author of Life of Johnson (1791), a biography of Dr. Samuel Johnson, which is considered by many people to be the greatest biography ever written in English.

It's the birthday of journalist and current editor of the New Yorker magazine, David Remnick, born in Hackensack, New Jersey (1958). Both of his grandfathers came to the United States from Russia, fleeing the Russian Revolution of 1917. As a young man, he got a job writing for the Washington Post, covering crime, sports, and fashion. Then in 1987, he heard there was an opening for a Moscow correspondent, and he took the job. Before he left for Moscow, he visited one of his grandfathers in Florida and told him that he was moving to Russia. His grandfather, who was 102 years old, couldn't believe that Remnick would choose to go to a place he had risked his life to escape.

Remnick went anyway, and covered the events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. He interviewed politicians, generals, intellectuals, and workers to get a complete picture of the effect on Russian society. In 1993, he came out with Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction.

Remnick went on to write for the New Yorker, and he was named editor in 1998, even though he'd never edited a magazine before. He is only the fifth person to serve as editor since the magazine was founded in 1925.

Today is the anniversary of Black Tuesday, the stock market crash in 1929 that signaled the beginning of the worst economic collapse in the history of the modern industrial world. Three million shares were sold in the first half-hour. Stock prices fell so fast that by the end of the day there were shares in many companies that no one would buy at any price. The stocks had lost their entire value.

The front page story in the New York Times on this day read, "Wall Street was a street of vanished hopes, of curiously silent apprehension and of a sort of paralyzed hypnosis... Men and women crowded the brokerage offices, even those who have been long since wiped out, and followed the figures on the tape. Little groups gathered here and there to discuss the fall in prices in hushed and awed tones."

It was the most disastrous trading day in the stock market's history. The stock market lost $30 billion, more than a third of its value, in the next two weeks.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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