Copyright 2010 © Charles Ellik
From the collection Dead Cat Bounce; also published in Poems from the Big Muddy: The 2004 National Poetry Slam
In the last three months
working at the Stock Exchange
an angry vein has burned its way
across the white of my right eye.
It does not stumble
like some happy drunk
after a late night of too much fun
it is a sober marksman
a straight arrow of stress.
On those frequent mornings
when I am late
and I run for the train
or a Floor-wide Fast Market is declared
it throbs like an organic time bomb.
I’ve tried squinting on one side
tried eyedrops and messaging
but like some stubborn Marxist saboteur
it makes no compromises
unsatisfied with anything less
than my renouncing Capitalism
and quitting my job.
I laughed when I go this job.
Laughed at my art school buddies
who worried that it would change me.
It was just a joke. Awell-paid lark.
I would be an undercover bohemian
peeping the squares’ game
collecting material for my poetry.
But greed is a disease
no medicine can cure
and now I’ve got it bad.
As more veins crawl
across the whites of my eyes
toward my pupils
my laughter and friends are forgotten.
Each morning in the mirror
I forecast the day they will meet
like a transcontinental railway
and send crimson bars across my vision
the golden spike of my ambition
sealing a prison with no key.
I’ve chiseled my face from marble
set diamonds in my gums for teeth
forged a spine from stainless steel
but my eyes
my tender eyes are water balloons
delicate fingers of my brain.
Now vericose tentacles
grip them from behind
drawing them back into
the safety of my titanium skull
room finally made
for a pair of bionic glass balls
programmed to display
only ticker tape parades
my armor now complete
monster of my own creation
one thousand years from now
pick up my impeccably preserved body
and shake it to hear my
dried and shriveled heart
rattle like a stone
my shrunken eyes
like the springs of a watch
wound too tight
my hollow body the perfect citizen
of a city that never sleeps
never knows a hope
or remembers a gentle village
spreading like an irrational number
once invented to describe perfection
now a model of futility
I stand on the floor
of the Stock Options Exchange
and blink my eyes.
After three years of running numbers
my vision is permanently impaired.
I can no longer see what I have lost
barely discern what I have
all I can see clearly
is what I don’t own yet.
I guess you could say
I am part of the problem.
I guess you could say
I’m becoming short-sighted.
But if you ask me
I’ll tell you I’m just doing my job
just paying my dues
just holding on for the big payoff
while the angry vein
of my right eye
stings and throbs
like an over-pressured gas main
just one dollar shy of blowing
just one blink away from crying blood
like some godless martyr
of the Options Floor.