money or life

your money or your life
that’s what it always seems to come down to
money
the measure of what the distance between comfort and suffering is worth
life
that thing I can’t describe in this line I’ve rewritten too many times to count
sometimes words don’t come easy
so we trade money for life
the way we trade Scrabble tiles when we don’t know what to do with what we have been given
sometimes words are not enough for living
so we trade words for numbers
wrap the stories of our lives in value
like age is just a number
experience, just a number
suffering, just a number
these scarred hands, just digits
history, just a record of minutes
so we trade life for currency
punch in our pulse against the clock
converting blood flow into binaries
effort into calories
labour into equity
ideas into property
and we begin to see symmetry in the pattern of exchange
we begin to change
become strangers to our own bodies
tear ourselves off into carbon copies of our means
and say ‘see, dues fully paid and this is my receipt’
but we’ve been cheated
like somebody ran the whole world through a computer
and rounded off the uncertainty
input music
output geometry
input poetry
output dictionary
input tradition
output policy
input questions
output liability
in this world, we struggle to understand
why everything still seems to be missing something
but it’s like we’re at gunpoint and somebody is telling us to choose
as if any one of us knew how to refuse
money or life.
all we can say for sure is that there’s a robber on the highway
and we’re not safe travelling alone.
we need community to hold up the mirror when we don’t see ourselves clearly
to remind us not to cheat ourselves;
we are more than the sum of our zeroes and ones.
we are the sound of mathematics exploding into prophecy
language bending into alchemy
suffering twisting into tapestry
experience melted down, recast into the possibility
of trading history for honesty
cynicism for senseless beauty
and no metric in all of industry
could ever put a price on that.