Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Haiku For the Bailout

Sometimes the world offers a kind of visual haiku that expresses all the density of meaning, all the layers of reality moving through the world and under it and behind it, at once. A man takes a woman's hand on the street and she leans into him like a swell against a seawall; a CEO talking on his cellphone ignores both the new puddle he steps into, and the pale rainbow from the recent storm, sketched on the water-blue sky over his head.

I was reminded of another such moment today, when I read that Citicorp had purchased Wachovia. The latter company has quite a presence on Nantucket: various corporate officers own homes here and their annual party features a fireworks display that puts the town's to shame. And who pays for that lavish artillery barrage? Well, you and me, of course, the taxpayers who will be bailing these people out this week or next week, when the right compromises can be finessed.

And what a perfect, oddly sinister metaphor to show where our money went: fountains of sparks illuminating their own spider-legged trails of smoke in the flash of light against the stars, rockets and roman candles, bouquets and brocades; lovely but pointless, extravagant but ephemeral, conspicuous consumption etching its temporary fossil into the soft stone of the summer night.

Then it was over.

The rich people had their fun and it was time for dinner and another round of drinks. For everyone else? Cold cinders on the beach Monday morning, and a long work week ahead.

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