Posted: April 7, 2010 in Poetry

CONTEXT: November, 2008

This is the other poem I wrote while at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Calgary. This poem grew out of a story I used to tell about why I moved to Ottawa.

When I got out of University, the first job I landed was as a loans guy at Trans Canada Credit (the TCC in the title).

The poem tells it all, and every word is true.

As an aside, if banks weren’t so regressive, these loan-shark companies wouldn’t exist.


Sometimes we have to do
Things we don’t want to do
To make end meet
To ensure we keep
Your family healthy and hale.
You may always swear
You’ll work only for positive change
But it’s strange
The way the world forces us
To dance on the end of
Invisible strings.

When I finished university
I found someone who would give
Me the means to put food
On the table
And all they asked for exchange
Was everything –
Blood, bone and soul.

Working for a legal loan shark
Masquerading as a financial institution,
But what can you say
When one of my jobs is to go
Door to door
From poor to more
To say, ‘Where is my money, punk?’
When I wasn’t chosen for this job
Based on my mind or credentials
But the fact that I can look scary.

In the afternoons I gave out cash
To a willing public –
Just sign on the bottom line,
Initial here… and here
And I’ll pass over some cash
That’ll go through you so fast
Until it is history past
A new stereo
Or vay-cay to Mexico
And all that’s left
Is the debt,
Popping along at a 30% vig,
Bordering on usury,
I’m sure you can see
That once our hooks were in
You were never getting free.

Mornings were worse.
That was collection time.
A metaphorical leg-breaker,
A literal hope-taker,
Drawing blood, drop by drop,
As I wrenched the faucet wide,
Tearing my insides inside out,
Squeezing the stone
And tossing it aside
When it could leak no more.

The worst part
Was when I started
Getting good at it.

It was easy enough,
Just think of them as numbers
And balances and ledgers
Instead of people.
When they don’t pay
Assume that it is by choice
And they are nothing more
Than cheap cheats keeping
What is rightfully yours.

The easier it got
The more I died inside.

Then a customer came in
And told us he would have
Trouble paying. You see
He had been diagnosed with HIV,
Turned into AIDS.
He lost his job – his ability to pay.
He finally told his family he was gay
And they wrote him off.
Something we could have done,
Dropping his account as an
Unavoidable expense,
But then our boss said,
‘Not my problem. Seize his goods.’

Here is a guy who is worried
About paying his bills, but look in his eyes
And you can see the fear –
Much bigger than the wrath of a
Company of credit, creating nothing.

It was like an alarm clock
Waking my inner mind –
Showing me a path leading
From an honest, caring person
To an empty husk drained of soul.

For every crime perpetrated
In the name of profit
I need no prophet
To show the stains left
That won’t wash clean
No matter how much I scrub.

I wondered if they would try to collect
From his estate when there was no
More person whose pocket we could pick.

I closed the book.
I couldn’t save the prey
Of the ravenous maw and its
Vampiric need to feed,
But before I left my soul on
The altar of greed,
I let the corporate doors close
Behind me.

I couldn’t help him
But now one of us was free.


Next is the poem I wrote for Steve Sauve.

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