Recession Poetics

Capital is not a thing but a process in which money is perpetually sent in search of more money. Capitalists - those who set this process in motion - take on many different personae. Finance capitalists look to make more money by lending to others in return for interest. Landlords collect rent because the land and properties they own are scarce resources. Rentiers make money from royalties and intellectual property rights. Asset traders swap titles (to stocks and shares for example), debts and contracts (including insurance) for a profit. Even the state can act like a capitalist, as for example, when it uses tax revenues to invest in infrastructures that stimulate growth and generate even more tax revenue. David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital, p. 40
'Writing the Wrongs of Recession'.

Anastomoo Handwritten
Leavin on a Jet Plane

by Barry Basden

I am at breakfast this Sunday
morning, a perfectly good morning,
though a bit cloudy, and a
perfectly good breakfast--some
sort of baked casserole of sausage,
cheese, and eggs--with fresh
fruit chafafah on the side.
The Hendersons are not here
and the hosts, my brother and
his new wife, surely miss them,
but we speak awkwardly of family
we haven't seen in years, although
it is a small world and my
other brother--no, not Larry--
says his neighbor, an ex-DEA agent,
once arrested our cousin who has
since died in a one-pickup crash.

That poor guy had already suffered
plenty of homemade bad luck,
leaving one arm dangling
in a barbed wire fence he ran
his motorcycle through late one
night so loaded he got up and
was trying to untangle it one-armed
and put it back on when his
daddy found him and screamed
for him to lie down.

But we are mostly here
looking out across a lovely
backyard pool and the
water hazard on the empty 13th
fairway beyond just to say goodbye
to all that and, regretfully,
to our sweet yellow Lab who will be
staying here with my brother
and his new wife when we remove our
shoes and fly off to the lowlands
of Central America this afternoon,
the ultimate downsizing--well, no,
that's not quite right, but I don't
want to think about the ultimate. No,
it's not that bad yet, but we have
to go now or I'm afraid it might be;
we'll hole up down there while the rest
of our stash slowly leaks away because
this stuff ain't close to being over yet.

I hate to leave but we really
must go and I'll be sure to write
when I'm not busy praying for all
you Wall Street fuckers to jump.

Addy Cobcroft

Moneyís not in the professions any more. Moneyís in how smart you are. How you can get what other people donít have. So you can rest for a moment.

Moneyís a dream, not a reality. Youíve got to be a dreamer. Itís the lotto, and bingo and Ė best of all Ė itís inside the pokies. Donít you know?

Whereíve you been? Itís right there. In real estate. In business. In being smart. All youíve got to do is read some self help books, or better still, watch early morning television. Itís all there if youíre looking. If youíre smart.

A wage isnít money. A wage is prison. Itís the dogs life. No-one in their right mind works for money any more. We left Das Kapital behind back in the noughties.

Itís all about being smart now. Knowing a thing or two. How to say no to the man. Yes to yourself. Thatís smart. Heh. No to the man. Yeah.

If you play your cards right, so to speak, itíll all land right in your lap. Everything you ever wanted. A spin of the wheel, a throw of the dice. Childs play.

Never mind getting up in the morning to run out the door. No more of that. Time to stay home. Smart, I tell you. Smart.

All youíve got to do is get your foot in the door of the bank, and itís all yours. Credit rating. Wall street. No looking back.

Sean Pravica


I was in second grade and we hadnít had a car in months. One was loaned to a family friend and he crashed it, while the other was simply a lemon past its squeeze. If my dad had a smaller heart and if his friend actually had money, we could have sued him. But we needed to eat-our empty cupboard was alarmingly loud. They say if walls could speak, and I say please...

The supermarket employees let him push the grocery cart home to our lantern lit house. At least the gas and water bills were paid. My mom was the first to notice that his $500 watch was missing, which occupied a daily location on his wrist to remind him of a time not too long ago when he used to work, used to drive a BMW, used to afford the utilities.

ďI donít know where it is,Ē he said. His eyes were tired, red.

ďDo you think you dropped it outside?Ē my mom asked, the watchís sudden importance giving the impression that food was only an afterthought, as though we were up to our ears in dry goods.

He walked back out the front door without answering her, outside again in the November cold. My mom had taken a picture of him in the entryway, standing with the grocery cart indoors, trying to make the most of it. That laugh was gone now.

When I woke up in the morning, I looked at my dadís twisted watch face, itís band ripped in two. Before I could ask anything, my mom recounted to me sadly, ďDad came home last night and I asked him if he found his watch. ĎYeah, I found it,í he said and threw that down on the table. That watch cost $500. Heíll probably never have another one like it.Ē

Now, getting ready to lose their second house in the last 17 years, at least theyíre eating, at least my dadís working, and at least they have two functioning cars. And his watch is almost as snazzy as the one trampled by a speeding car many years ago, but not quite.


Hugh Fox

Back home economically
these days, 1930's Chicago,
"Man, look at that house, those
pillars out in front, I don't know if
they really go with the brick, but...,"
weekend drives into Big Money
suburbs like Oak Park,which looked
like Hollywood, and then back to the
far South Side, all the peasants like
my grandma, my pa an M.D., but he
could have just as well been a construction
worker, home-calls but no home, crappy
apartment in a crappy apartment building,
me working summers digging ditches,
delivering mail, we could just as well have
still been back in Czechville, on the Irish
coast, like I tell my Brazilian brother-in-
law every weekend "You'd be better off
in Brazil," he smiles back "This week....
but you never know."


someone's payroll


Omar Azam

I always get so clear when I'm not on someone's payroll.


I see the ugly machines for what they are

War machines
City machines
Money machines

The worst have got to be the money machines.

They scare me with poverty and take up my time
So I don't see or have time to deal with the other ones.

I see how ethics are near the bottom of what they do
They will deal will anyone for the right price
Especially the big ones

If one man had to do business with a murderer,
the answer would be obvious.

If it's a company of 1000,
how can you say no?

I had those thoughts when I was a student

Now I am sick
after having been in the machine

The worst part was having my time
sucked away
And having my self-respect sucked away.

Independence, autonomy, calm
are my birthright

Ok maybe not, but certainly
my adultright.

So I will take a paycut,
live some self-respect

And not get paid for it.

Foto by Melissa Iocco

Richard Prins

I Read Poetry for the Articles

Definitude was The's appalling crime,
the sentence was eternally to roam
in servitude to supermarketeers
come paradise or else theomachy.
Condemned to classify consumers' whims,
The cleaved to any barcode in demand
especially organic shanks of meat
'til Scanner beep its infrared delight.

Poor The could hardly bear th'oppressive toil
and loathed the anticsome indefinites.
So frequently a shopper couldn't find
an item damned by ambiguity,
for A went riding louche in shopping carts
so pushed by An, who mimed a flagellant.

While spilling all their oily quiddity,
the raunchy dominoes, they toppled o'er;
a slip n' slide befell Free Enterprise
like any one of Marx's wettest dreams
and laughing, Some did hyperventilate
so all the Market's duties fell to The
who often spared these mirthful vagabonds
the consequences of a glottal stop.

Our hero sensed, not unreluctantly,
a Customer's concupiscent caprice:
As quickly as a lizard's tongue, The stuck
upon the rack of lurid magazines
(perchance the naked knockers of the A
or An's erumpent, greasy tenderloin).

The Customer peeks up the produce aisle
as though it were his secretary's skirt.
How flush his cheeks! How quick he glances back!
at Scanner, whistling ruby-eyed desire
to register the sleek and glossy pulp.
I read it for the articles, he gulps.

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What is Tasmania?

Tasmania is composed of two wordsótas and mania. One dictionary meaning of tas is ďa large heapĒ and so Tasmania would be a mania or a passion for large heaps. On one list of baby names, Tas is of mythological originsóbut unstated and unknown. On another list, Tas is identified as being of Gypsy origins and meaning ďa birdís nest.Ē An equivalent English name is supposed to be Teague, which derives from Celtic Tadhg for ďpoetĒ or philosopher.Ē What with mania being dictionary-defined as ďan excessively intense enthusiasm, interest, or desire; a craze,Ē it might be fair to assume or conclude that Tasmania is the excessive enthusiasm of a poet / philosopher for gathering up (in a state of mania) a large heap of birdsí nestsófrom which the poet / philosopher with a Celtic /Gypsy spirit seeks to understand the worldómuch like William Blake commenting: ďTo see a world in a grain of sand.Ē

Christina Murphy

Jesse Shipway's Note on Poetics

Hunger Strike

Len Kuntz

Nightly my grandfather drank tumblers of rye while watching Lawrence Welk. When it was time for bed, heíd rinse the glass, fill it with water and something that fizzed like Alka-Seltzer, then plop his teeth in. Iíd wait until heíd gone to bed. Then, like being bewitched by a marine aquarium, Iíd stare at the floating dentures, the rows of straight yet yellowed teeth, the pink plastic gums attached, the tiny air bubbles zigzagging up the surface.

In the mornings, my grandfather took us to the fields and weíd plow or bale or hoe. At lunch weíd have clammy bologna sandwiches that tasted like dirt and chaff, and my grandfather, in his thick German accent, would tell us about ďhard times.Ē He said people were starving then. He said we didnít know how lucky we were to have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies. He claimed the world would never see such ruin again.

Now I watch my own son sleep. His mother has left him with me for the weekend. Each time we talk on the phone, she asks the same thing--if Iíve found a job yet--and every time itís like taking an ice pick through the eye.

Last Thursday I stopped eating. At first, it was only because Iíd forgotten lunch, then dinner, and then it was the next day and I thought Iíd see how far I could take this self-styled starvation.

My boy is sleeping on the couch, the game control still grasped in one hand, blanket over him dusted with orange-yellow shavings. When I spot the Cheetos bag by his socks, my stomach kicks. I swallow bile and the burn is like a scalding iron jammed down my throat.

I bought this apartment after the divorce. Our house had been stucco, nice, upscale. Now Iím in arrears and Iíll be moving out soon. I know how thatíll make me look to the kid and the ex.
Of course, there are some jobs I could get--high school things at fast food restaurants--but a man my age has to keep some pride.

Itís been four days since Iíve eaten. I look thinner, sure, but not haggard. Iíve been out of work 422 days. Itís hardly a record, from what everyone tells me. But Iíve pledged not to have so much as a snack until Iím hired.
I boot the computer and check the job postings. Pop-ups show me ads for resume writing courses, college applications. All the models are beautiful and twenty.

A couple of weeks ago I was driving late at night. The thought just blipped out: how easy it would be to plunge the car off the cliff and be done with it all.

But I figure this is a fair fight. If I get a job soon, Iíll be able to repair some of the devastation. If I donít, well, thereíll be no need for a messy crash--Iíll be bones. Tit for tat, as Granddad would say.

Image by Ronnie Koppelberger


Tim Van Hook

I got alarms and insurance, police with guns and lawyers.
You got no work, on the corner, with gangs and pimps and dealers.
You donít want to fill the jails and graveyards? Then donít do the crime,
but hey, I got mine.

I send my kids to college preps, adventure trips, the ivyís.
You got cutback crowded bookless dank dropout pens with drive-byís.
Better buckle down and study hard so no childís left behind,
but man, I got mine.

Clean my toilets, fix my dinner, blow my leaves and mow my lawn,
cross the border, work for nothing, cause itís better than your home.
Donít know how to speak your language, but good help is hard to find,
and yes, I got mine.

Do a startup, and get acquired, sell all the stock before the loss.
Corporation has to right size, offshore, downsize, and outsource,
leaves the people standing on the unemployment welfare line.
You know I got mine.

My investments cut the rates on dividends and capital gains.
You work two jobs, withhold your tax, from whatís nearly minimum wage.
The whole systemís a Ponzi scheme engineered to rob you blind,
because I got mine.

Own a big house on an acre, couple shady blocks from town
Sell you loans you cannot pay for, adjustable, no money down.
Soon youíre bankrupt, in foreclosure, and they told you where to sign.
But then, I got mine.

Got three cars to drive for pleasure, the leisure to bike or walk.
Stuck in traffic on the freeway, canít afford to live near work,
spend hours on the busses and trains they wonít make run on time.
Itís true, I got mine.

Fill my tank and fill my larder with the spoils of empire.
Go defend the global market from the endless war on terror.
Lose your life or lose your freedom with some shrapnel in your spine,
but yet I got mine.

I worry for kids and grandkids with peak oil and global warming.
Population pressure leads to drought, war, disease and famine.
You better head for higher ground as the ocean levels climb.
You bet I got mine.