“New Economy”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Jan. 17 2012 7:05 AM

“New Economy”

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Joshua Rivkin read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

A man offers to trade his guitar for a city bus. 
My pick for your passengers. Six strings for sixteen wheels. 

A bride on her wedding day exchanges her love
for bright weather, a groom exchanges his hands for hers. 

A father offers to trade his family for a hotel’s worth of sleep. 
A sailor offers the Pacific for a hotel’s worth of sex.

Tonight, the shirt from my back, my singing mouth,
my endless praise, for your skin or company.

I’ll give you my stethoscope for a red barn: a doctor. 
I’ll give you my right arm for your left: his patient. 

It’s the inequality of pain a sleepless woman wants
to give away. Here, take mine, she offers to freight trains

whistling their replies through Houston’s poorest wards:
Jealousy gets you jealousy. Rage gets you rage.

"What wouldn’t you offer?" a man asks the pawn shop window.
"What wouldn’t you take?" replies the glass. 

For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site. Click here for an archive of discussions about poems with Robert Pinsky in "the Fray," Slate's reader forum.

Joshua Rivkin's poems have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, Southern Review, and elsewere. A former Stegner Fellow, he lives in Los Angeles.

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