I heard Cyril sing this at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar in a few years ago when he played there with Tribe 13. Jay knew at least one of the guys in the band, Papa Mali, and gave him several of our New Orleans books to give to Cyril. Later Cyril came to our booth and we talked for a time – he was fascinated by our icons and picked an Ethiopian Cross, which he wears much of the time, along with other sacred pieces he finds or that find him. Yesterday, at the airport in Chicago, we talked briefly. I told him he would love the Asian Exhibit at the Institute of Art. I’ve been listening to his music today. Amazing! The refrain above – I want my money back! struck me deeply when I first heard it. “You send my money to Iraq! I want my money back!” Yesterday he wore a big Obama button on the back of his leather cap.
There is a strawberry, red, jubilant, a burst of sweet summer sunlight, ripe, like the ones Mother grew in our backyard up the bluff from Lake Michigan, a few miles from the Wisconsin border of Illinois, in America, in the nineteen fifties. I want it, really want it, even though I know it won’t, can’t, could never be as good as the ones we grew back then, mixed with sugar and pectin, left out in summer sunlight to cook. It is necessary to buy what we have forgotten how to make, or grow. The strawberry today is huge, covered with chocolate, skewered on a stick — complicated but irresistible now that Mother is gone, the house on Longview Street gone, along with the back yard garden. I pull out my debit card. I can’t buy the strawberry I want, the one Mother grew in the flower bed we thinned out every spring to make room for a new crop. So I buy this new, complicated one — bulging with union busting, undocumented worker abuse, juicy with chemical inducements, fortified by bank loans, foreign investment and farm subsidies, coated with chocolate, cheap labor, drug wars, bad government and empire. I pull out my debit card, swipe it, punch in the pin number that unlocks my money. The strawberry is mine. Or is it? If the bank came after it, would I have to give it up? Could I give them just the skewer? Or part of the chocolate? And once they got their piece, where would it go? To Chinese investors in the bank, as collateral for a dead car loan in Cleveland, or Tokyo? Would I have to give them the whole thing — red fruit, tiny dots, seeds spots, the green ruffle? How long before it perished, poof, was absolutely gone — like everything attached to money, tossed into the black hole of funny accounting, fractals of annuities, hedge funds, halls of mirrors reflecting images of value where none has been for years, the rasping appetite of the giant that devours anything, even itself, even my strawberry. How angry would it make me that they disappeared my money, my strawberry, my delectable, complicated strawberry? Mad enough to vote? Mad enough to start a garden of my own, in my front yard, remember how to grow things, how to make compost? Mad enough to float another theory, another way of living in the world, without money, with real strawberries that are delicious but not complex. When I moved to Austin in the seventies, there was a women’s band called Jubilation. They were a radical, feminist band and named themselves after an economic theory — the idea was to forgive the colossal debt owed to the United States, to Europe by governments in Africa, for instance, who paid more for debt service than schools for their children, than health care, infrastructure, countries held in indenture for the cost of planting cash crops that left the country before people at home were fed — strawberries that, poof! disappeared the instant debt infected the food chain. Jubilation. Think about it. What if we just zeroed it out. Zero times any number equals zero. What if we disappeared the debt instead of the strawberry?
©Susan Bright, 2009
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published two-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh
Earthfamilyalpha Content IV
Earthfamilyalpha Content III
Earthfamilyalpha Content II