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Personal Economy #3

Capitalism is a totality of countless entwined, heterogeneous & contradictory economies. The pursuit of one interrupts, enhances, & otherwise influences the pursuit of others.

I attend to economy intensely as an aesthetic practice. I am a poet in the “imagist” tradition, which celebrates Williams’ notoriously “little” “red wheelbarrow” & Pound’s precept: “use no word that does not contribute to the presentation.” The poet constructs little economies of meaning by condensing & jump-cutting: metaphor & juxtaposition.

I do not have a savings account. By the end of each month I’m buying those things I choose to pretend I can’t live without on my “Amazon.com” card. At forty, white, male, well educated (a B.A., an M.A. and Ph.D.), I am troubled by my failure to set aside money for “my retirement.” My average annual salary is $30,000. I am sure that my mother managed to save a little each month, even though as a single mother raising two children in the 1970s & 1980s she never made more than $32,000.

I have a little worry that by not saving I take after my father, who died in deep poverty, aged 48, in 1991. The final months of his life were spent in a dilapidated hunting shack without running water; “the indoor plumbing,” he liked to joke, “is for shit.” But it was difficult for him to negotiate the steps to the front door & so I would hold a dishpan level with the end of his penis while he dribbled out a few drips of foul yellow liquid.

Whereas my mother made her $32,000 with one job — public school teacher — I make mine by juggling three part-time positions. I have become very poetic with my time: I condense it by multi-tasking; I juxtapose heterogeneous elements as much as possible. When its time to leave for work, I get my toothbrush from the cabinet, put toothpaste on it, turn the water on, put the toothbrush in my mouth, and head to my study, where I pack my bag. In between putting items in my bag, I push the toothbrush back & forth in my mouth. When my bag is packed, I head back to the bathroom, spit, & turn the water off.

I chose to be a poet because at some point I learned that mommy loves a poet; did that make my father (a prison guard when employed) a poet? When I write, time slows; I write like there is no other time; when practicing the economy of words, no other economy occurs.


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