Monday, January 8, 2007

"Let us sell then you and me"

Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh ReefMy friend Bartleby, who prefers not to do his own blogging, shared the following poem with me recently. He says that the text dates back to 1990, not long after the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled oil all over the pristine southern coast of Alaska, and that he remembered the poem when he recently read that the appeals court reduced the damages Exxon Mobil was required to pay. He also sends along his apologies to T.S. Eliot.

The Swan Song of J. Andrew Slackmeyer

Caveat emptor

Let us sell then you and me,
While the oil spreads across the sea
Like a drunkard spilled upon some barroom floor;
Let us go door by door through suburban developments,
Freeway clogged with BMWs and SaabsThe rambling envelopments
Of empty days in time-clocked jobs
Past freeways clogged with BMWs and Saabs:
Developments that follow like no argument at all,
Cancerous, they sprawl,
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, "What in hell?"
Let us go and buy and sell.

On the tube the women come and go talking about Mop-'n'-Glo.

The acid rain that wraps its coils about the evergreens,
The acid rain that sets its fangs upon the evergreens
Trees killed by acid rain in the Great Smoky MountainsDrooled venom upon the corpse that was the land,
Dallied by the toxic waste that fills the drains,
Let drop like scales the soot that rises from smokestacks,
Passed from beneath the trees, hissed a tired sigh,
But hearing time's powerful pipe,
Slithered soundlessly into the water supply.

For indeed will there be time
For the acid rain that lurks among the trees,
Slithering its coils about the evergreens?
Will there be time, will there be time
To prepare new products to seize the markets that one sees?
Will there be time to kill, and time to curse,
And time for all the talk and days of hands
That lift the money from one's purse?
Time for me and time for you,
And time yet for a hundred acquisitions.
And for a thousand missions and admissions,
Before the taking of some coke or brew?

On the tube the women come and go talking about Mop-'n'-Glo.

Mop & Glo bottleYes indeed will there be time
To ponder, "Dare I do?" and, "When?" and, "To who?"
Time to create something ghastly new,
But with, perhaps, a use or two --
[They will say: "How his concept is positively chic!"]
The factories I build will belch and leak,
The waste I dump out will fester and reek --
[They will say: "But how his profits do rise and peak!"]
Dare I do
Such a thing perverse?
In a year is there time
For legislation and litigation that an appeal will reverse?

For I have bought them all already, bought them all --
Have bought the politicians, judges, police,
Have bought the publishers, the union bosses; the lawyers, I lease.
How should I begin to presume?

I should have been a tax free bond trader
flitting across the floors of financial exchanges.

Should not I, after flouting laws and cutting deals have the
wherewithal to make new steals?
But though I have perjured myself and taken the fifth,
Though I have had my subpoenas served to me upon a platter,
I am no financial prophet -- my portfolio no fatter.
I have heard the bonfires of my solvency crackle,
And I have heard the Infernal Revenue Service cackle,
And in short, I was chagrined.

Adam Smith come back from the dead on the cover of Time magazineAnd what would its net worth have been after all?
After the deductions, credits and restructuring write-offs,
After the three-martini lunches, after the private memberships,
After chasing skirts in the secretarial pool.
Would it have been worth my while,
To have squeezed the whole earth into one diversified conglomerate?
To say: "I am Adam Smith, come from the dead,
Come back to sell you all, I shall sell you all" --
It is just impossible to mean what I say!

No! I have no trump to play, no Carnegie was meant to be;
Am a small-time industrialist, one that will do
To carry weight in a county or two,
Buy a few favors; no doubt an easy mark,
Full of great plans, but a bit short on capital;
Almost, at times, a bankrupt.

I grow poor ... I grow poor ...
I shall float a junk bond upon the floor.

Shall I sell off a subsidiary? Do I dare restructure what I own?
Mammon from Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire InfernalI shall falsify my records and secure another loan,
I have heard investors ringing, phone to phone.

I do not think that they will ring for me.

We have lingered in the profits of the short term,
By Mammon crowned with man-made green and gold,
'Til earthly debts do break us and we're sold.

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