Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Lessons of money

This I wrote in 2001, in response to training at work before the introduction of a new accounting system.

(recalling Henry Reed)

In the 1940s
a poet could look down his nose
at an NCO, I suppose,
who said The reason being is,
and a capsa’s a vase and the Vasa capsized.

Irritation nowadays
with those whose task it is to train
us would spurn any such disdain
for an unsyntactic phrase,
though a capsa’s a vase and the Vasa capsized,

and they all said it, I think.
Learning computerized accounts
I woke for varying amounts.
Some if not all of it would sink.
And a capsa’s a vase and the Vasa capsized.

History ran up the shore.
Whether money’s grant or profit,
tax or gift, the movement of it
calls on all our powers to track.
We struggled in the wake
and wash of ledgerspeak.
Debt was not cut at Okinawa.
And a capsa’s a vase and the Vasa capsized.

In the run-up, the thing seemed to swell with historical change.
Up and running, not very, it comes to show,
like a blooper of snow-ploughs bought for the wrong sort of snow,
no human trends outside the usual range.
And a capsa’s a vase and the Vasa capsized.

The Henry Reed allusion is to his 1940s sequence 'Lessons of the war', a response to his training in the Army.  I suppose I had better specify, since my refrain makes no sense otherwise, that the accounting system in which I, and many others, were being trained in the summer of 2000 was Cambridge University's CAPSA accounting system, since then upgraded and rebranded.

I believe I stretch things rather in conflating a capsa -- a cylindrical container for scrolls -- with a vase.  The attraction of the Vasa pun was too great, and is, I hope, covered by poetic licence.

The Okinawa allusion is to the 26th G8 summit, held in Okinawa in the summer of 2000, and the subject of demonstrations by the Jubilee 2000 movement for the cancellation of third world debt.

The poem was published in Cambridge University libraries information bulletin 51, Michaelmas 2002.

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