Sunday, November 1, 2009

La Poésie Financière

As a rule, I try to stay up-to-date on this, that, and the other—all three of which constantly occupy some sphere of the national mind—and, currently, the "that" seems to be the perpetual post-mortem of the financial crisis still laying waste to vast swaths of the American Empire.

In my most recent appearance as that bedraggled, over-educated NYC straphanger everyone knows and pretends not to be, I happened across an item in my crumpled New Yorker (see?) that reminded me of a prose-ish poem I'd written several years ago addressing just such (literal) changes in fortune.

On this blog, I rarely stray into anything as controversial as substance—though I do often grant myself the indulgence of polemicism (for instance). I'm going to break with that odd tradition and share the piece of writing in question.

I'm less the prescient type than the
postscient type, but I would say that in some gut way I got the large-scale risks of systemic opportunism right with this one.

For what it's worth. (Heh...)

L'Esprit D'Agilotte

—Haberdashers dashed across the racks as if their hats could no longer hold the brains inside their crowns—Tailors torn from collar to crotch—Cobblers, dry tongues begging for their souls—

Agilotte arrived at the agora.

He strode through the bright bordellos of commerce much as a vintner sniffs at the corks of emptied casks. There was no water in his walk, though, just a touch of oil: he distasted mixing. He tightened his invisible hand into a fist, then rode his well-greased purse gently along the purveyors’ path, watching their stock fall like a feather.

—Carpenters’ minds warped out of joint—Smithys’ steely resolve bent out of shape—

He turned the purpose of the grand experiment on its back and tanned it in the sun until its brown was golden. Like the emerald turtles he emulated, he understood that trolling depths is only good for drowning, and who needs dip deeper than the wish of the fountain’s settled coins? After all, shallow waters are where the beasts won’t dive, and interest only flies as far as the smell of dying will take it. This is as far as Agilotte would go. But this was far enough. Nothing shiny lie farther.

He turned the corner, still intent on the baker’s dozen, the hint of special care hanging heavy on his pursed lips.

—Bankers’ reason dispossessed—

With expansive palm outstretched, he reached the store-front, but suddenly those five fingers thumbed the dim emptiness wherein the lower depths are lost every day. Agilotte had accidentally tasted the water of those currents through which no currency flows.

Being hot and cold, but not lukewarm, he spat the water from his mouth and turned his parched lips from his palm, but there was nothing there, the fare had taken all, and Agilotte, the maker of the mark, the dollar’s dolor, was left with nothing but what he thought he had bought.

—Buyer’s capital punished—

Agilotte remarked his empty palm.

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