686: The Wealth

686: The Wealth

686: The Wealth


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

The other night I was at a group dinner after a reading, and we were discussing the importance of putting your phone down, of not always rushing, or not always taking on so much, learning to say no more, to set healthy boundaries. Everyone we knew was stressed, everyone we knew needed to do a little less. And then the woman to my right said something to the effect of, “I’d do less, if someone would pay my rent.”

And we all nodded and mhmmed. We want people to practice authentic self-care and not take on so much that they burn out. We want our friends to be less busy and happier. I mean, I host a podcast called The Slowdown. I legitimately want you to slow down. But it does beg the question, who can afford to slow down?

In my poetry community, so many of us are working numerous jobs as instructors, editors, freelance copywriters, teachers, grocery store clerks, bartenders, servers, and so on. Of course we care about making money and want security and freedom like everyone else, but we also care about making poems, about staring long and hard at something until it changes and transforms. Still, we want food on the table, and safety and even, yes, luxuries. Poets love luxuries! Don’t be fooled by our somber countenances. We are very into pleasure. And we work hard for it.

But no one goes into poetry for the money. We go into poetry for the love of it, for the obsession of it. And sometimes, accepting that true wealth will not be built by writing one poem after another is tough. But we know that is how a good life is built. So we opt for that instead.

Today’s poem interrogates the idea of money, of wealth, and how the pursuit of money can lead to our destruction.

The Wealth
by Bianca Stone

The truth is
money is in war, not poetry.
Money is in real estate and clean water.
Money is in other people’s money.
Not pitted antique linens
with slight stains at the hand stitch
Mom swears are “worth a lot.”
Money is in country, in USA! In Fiction,
in the numbered ether.
Not square nails rusted brittle to the touch
kept in tin cans around the house
for the strange subversive opulence
of one day “selling.”

Money is not in our wistful, near-mint antiques.
More critically, it is not in abstinence. In blank
space between ink. Absorbed by a single cell
when all the mind wants is to indulge—
money is not in not indulging. Not in
the flushed ranks of your crippled piety.

I will miss money. Miss lush foliage.
The abundance of summer.
I will miss apples and asters and frogs,
the smell of weed, the acridness of body,
when we drive ourselves out of luck with cars.
Money is an abstract scream, not
the silence that hangs from the head
in a broken nimbus,
lighting near the edge of what you know.

I know nothing of money. Of wealth.
And from the torqued maw comes
bitter truths. The wading bird that thinks
it can eat the ocean. Our becoming
that has gone septic. Money is in the oasis,
in mirage and delirious hunt. 

"The Wealth" by Bianca Stone, from WHAT IS OTHERWISE INFINITE copyright © 2022 Bianca Stone. Used by permission of Tin House.