On Becoming Poor

When the rich became poorer

They needed the poor

To tell them how to manage,

But when the poor became rich

They completely forgot

What they'd said.


So the rich and the richer

Sat around

Telling the poor how to live,

While the poor and the poorer

Met together

Debating how to manage.


The poor were tempted

To lift up their arms

To the rich,

While the rich put their hands

In their pockets

And left them there.


So the rich thought

They should say something,

And the poor were longing

For one wise word

If only to know

Who would manage.


Conscience struck the rich

With domination

Echoing in the mind,

While dignity reached the poor

With exploitation

Prompted in memory.


The rich and the poor were trapped

In a second apartheid,

Separated by silent memories

Until one who was rich

And had become poor

Stretched out his hands to both.


December 1991


Written following the G-15 meeting (Caracas)