Toh Hsien Min (b. 1975)
As my dad used to say whenever he
thought we were spending all his thrift,
do you think I print money? I didn’t really
know at that time whether to take him seriously.
I mean, I was six, maybe seven. My concept of
money extended to what I got for wanton mee
at school recess only, and everything else I
asked for knowing who would give it but not
what this person would do to give it to me.
One December, shopping at Isetan, he pretended
to refuse to buy me a die-cast Millennium Falcon,
and when I returned to that special aisle and shelf
in the toy department the last one was gone,
the absent shrine of a forgetful grief. My dad
unwrapped it, under the tree, for a boy who
still believed Santa Claus came down the chimney,
even though we had no chimney. Dad believed
in the deserts of hard work, years and years
with the same employer, saving money by
fixing the blinds and electrical extensions himself.
Never quite recovered when his firm let him go,
three years before retirement age. Now that I’ve aged
also, and the difference between a good year
and a bad year is a greenback hedge, I know.
My dad doesn’t print money, but someone out there
does. It all revolves on being on the right side
of that ocean-equation, whether you’re holding Treasuries
and knowing how to deploy the funds you haven’t got.
Someone’s got to lose, just as somewhere in the world
the stratonimbus plan a margin-call, and elsewhere
beneath molten sky unwearied Namibians speak again
of the season of dry water, stretching endlessly
before them, shimmering like silver, one remove
from the hardtack stop-loss of the ground,
that forgiving, unnourished, ageless ground.
by Toh Hsien Min
from Means to an End (2008)