Skip to content

I Listen To Money Singing

December 17, 2011



I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down
From long french windows at a provincial town,
The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.

from Money by Phillip Larkin



Thinking about the insanity of Capitalism as it stands today is enough to drive you, gibbering and tearing out your hair, into an early grave. The whole set-up verges on the surreal. Verges? What am I saying? ‘Verges’ be damned: the whole shebang has gone, Gadarene swine-like, over the fucking cliff.

In the 1930s, someone (memory fails me but I’m guessing Larry Durrell) asked Henry Miller to write an essay on economics (‘the dismal science’ appellation is half right: it is dismal) for one of those literary magazines that used to spring-up overnight like mushrooms…and vanish just as quickly.

Initially, Miller took the job seriously; but after hacking his way through a few thickets of economic ‘analysis’, ‘history’ and ‘philosophy’, Miller baulked–the stuff was dross on an epic scale.

What he wrote instead was a very funny, tongue-firmly-in-cheek essay called Money and How It Gets That Way. I wish I had a copy to hand or even remembered where in his works it appears, but I don’t and can only recall laughing uproariously and being impressed at the astuteness of some of Miller’s insights.

Faced with the same task today, I suspect that even Miller, a happy-go-lucky sort if ever there was one, would have turned to the rope, the razor or the revolver.

Consider, for example, the ‘markets’, whose volatility, petulance and capriciousness have governments shitting themselves in terror; the ‘markets’ to whom governments must turn to ‘borrow’ money to carry-on the business of government.

How is this ‘borrowing’ accomplished? Through the sale of government ‘bonds’, which are essentially I.O.U.s. The markets purchase these bonds and demand a sum of interest be paid on the bonds that the markets (via the medium of the credit-rating agencies) decide is commensurate with the degree of ‘risk’ involved in buying bonds from (i.e. lending money to) this or that sovereign government.

And here’s where things become so warped, so bizarre, so flat-out fucking insane that it makes my brain hurt to think about it.

How do the ‘markets’ (i.e the various banks and bond-dealers) pay for these bonds? As things stand (and have stood for the last 4 years), they use money, issued by governments, that they have ‘borrowed’ (in a process called, for some reason known only to God and Mammon, as ‘Quantitative Easing’) virtually interest-free…from governments.

Think about this.

The Government, who profess themselves to be in dire need of money, print money.

They then lend that money to banks and financial institutions at almost zero-interest.

The Government then announces that it will be holding a sale of government bonds.

The markets, guided by the ratings agencies, declare that the government’s finances are in a parlous state and the markets demand a higher return of interest on the bonds.

The government acquiesces and offers the markets a higher return on the bonds.

The markets then buy the government bonds, while at the same time announcing that the higher rate of interest being paid on the bonds is evidence that the government’s finances are in a precarious state; that lending to the government is increasingly risky and that the markets will require a higher return of interest if they are to buy the next tranche of bonds.

In a swift, swivel-eyed, howling-at-the-moon nutshell, I repeat: the government prints money; the government then lends that money to the markets at zero-interest; the markets then lend that money back to the government at increasingly high rates of interest.

Meanwhile, the markets are demanding that the government institute more ‘austerity measures’ because the government–you know…the government that printed the money and lent it to the markets so that the markets could lend it back to the government: that government–is a bad loan-risk.

Every time I try to process this lunatic scenario a little bit of my brain turns to tapioca and I have to begin again.

It’s official: the whole fucking world has fallen down a rabbit hole and has started having conversations with hookah-smoking giant caterpillars and talking playing-cards.

Time for poems about money or the lack thereof…again; and here’s an old one of mine…again:


A La Carte

Money is tight and it’s going to get tighter;
cinch-up your belt and get set for the storm.
Your pockets are light and they’re going to get lighter;
our passions are cold and our soup is luke-warm.

Bodies are stacked in the street like cut fire-wood;
burn them for fuel when they’ve dried out enough.
The parks are all deserts where trees had once stood:
denuded entire of all burnable stuff.

Eat all the rich and the fat and your pets:
we’d eat humble pie but the pies are long gone;
stone-soup and dream bread are as good as it gets;
we ate all the frogs: now there’s none left to spawn.

I’ve eaten the kids and the wife was a treat;
the postman was quick, but not near quick as me;
I’d eat my own leg if it had any meat:
Oh, for a fat politician or three.

  1. reine permalink
    December 18, 2011 12:21 AM

    If you have no money dears
    Don’t worry, take a leaf
    From my book on home economy
    And save yourself some grief

    To get two days from your smalls
    Make friends with a thick gusset
    Wear a bra only every other day
    And walk to work, don’t bus it

    That’s if you have a job of course
    And even if you do
    Chances are the Government
    Has had its way with you

    The bondholders cannot be burned
    So don’t waste your time trying
    Instead, burn some toasted bread
    And season it by crying

    Salty tears atop it
    Better by far than butter
    For marmalade, sneeze out a snot
    And use a pastry cutter

    To divvy up a pancake
    Made from dishwater and shavings
    From the breadboard that is crumbling
    And dispense with chocolate cravings

    By sniffing at your doggy’s turd
    Before you roast the mutt
    A passable borlotti curd
    Makes a palatable butt

    Speaking of which, suck yours dry
    If you still have some cigs left
    Or fashion some from turf dust
    Skinny fingers are quite deft

    Use toilet paper sparingly
    A drip dry will be fine
    To air a whiffy jumper
    Just hang it on the line

    Have lots of sex to keep you warm
    But not with the syphilitic
    You don’t need that on top of hips
    Already quite arthritic

    You’ll find a silver lining
    Of this penury afflicition
    Is that you’ll lose a lot of weight
    And be cured of your addiction

    To glossy mags and macaroons
    Prosecco and pannetone
    And don’t worry, God’s there for you
    So you’ll never be alone

  2. hic8ubique permalink
    December 18, 2011 12:59 AM

    Dreadful good, Re.I never even finished my dawdling seasonal poem,

    It Came Up Just Last Night

    Speaking of smalls, the frugal Spouse
    buys his from the Gap

    Goodhew are more expensive, but
    prevent the gap-loose chap

    peeping out the window during
    hasty swaps of of costume;

    entertaining dress-assistants
    with that saucy pater nostrum.

    So, I always buy Spouse Goodhew,
    though he can’t approve my thrift

    until production week when he
    appreciates the gift.

    • reine permalink
      December 18, 2011 10:14 AM

      Dreadful good born of dreadful mood Hic!

      That is a marvellous pen picture of peeping Tom avoidance,

    • hic8ubique permalink
      December 18, 2011 4:16 PM

      I’m sorry, Re. Keep writing; make the mood your play-thing.
      I’m off to spend the day with Fools and dancers.
      What could be more appropriate than suspension of disbelief?

  3. henrylloydmoon permalink
    December 18, 2011 9:52 PM

  4. InvisibleJack permalink
    December 19, 2011 3:54 PM

    I Promise To Bear The Payer

    Of the money made in Heaven
    and the money made in Hell
    some of it’s worth spending,
    and all worth spending well.

    But down here in Europe
    is money worth a shit?
    Is shit even worth shitting?
    For once shat, that’s it.

    Jack Brae Curtingstall

  5. InvisibleJack permalink
    December 19, 2011 3:57 PM


    I see now, Mishari, that you are holed up in Whitechapel. If I’d known that all along I would have called on you and cadged a tenner.

    Next time I’m in London you won’t be so lucky.

    Jack Brae

  6. reine permalink
    December 19, 2011 8:21 PM

    Hi Jack, I read the news about your Dad on potw. Very very sorry to hear it. Can’t think of anything meaningful to say but thinking of you. R

    • hic8ubique permalink
      December 20, 2011 9:59 PM

      I’ve been thinking of you very much as well, Jack.
      It was last Thursday I spotted the perfect shiny badge, much better than what I’d had in mind previously. I tried to commission one for you, but was told I must have it for free. It won’t be ready to send til next week, so perhaps it will arrive as an Epiphany gift.

  7. December 20, 2011 1:15 PM

    The sky seals
    That envelope of mountain and earth
    Wherein I enclose all my dreams
    My memories, my secrets
    And the sea washes away the dross
    That will not fit or that defies category
    If I could send it to you I would…
    If I could empty its contents on your doorstep
    Arched over by a rainbow and soft underfoot
    I would send the missive daily
    Instead all that will fit is this crisp note
    It may suffice for the acquisition
    Of an image that will scratch the surface
    Of this vast wealth

  8. December 23, 2011 12:21 PM

    While I have a minute in my hectic schedule of socialising, revolving husbands, cooking, shopping, harbouring murderous thoughts, I just want to wish you all a happy Christmas, whatever form that will take and much good fortune in 2012. It hasn’t exactly been my annus mirabilis but I know others here have had difficult times and I hope the new year will be a bright new beginning. Thanks Mishari for always providing room at the inn. Mistletoed kisses to all. xx

Comments are closed.