These are sobering times. The party’s over. But it was a party we found exhausting. All along this wild ride of greed and consumption, some of us kept turning toward simplicity and responsible living, tried to create space in our lives.
I wrote this poem in 2000, thinking about Buy Nothing Day. The theme that year was “Enough!”
In America, the Friday after Thanksgiving had become traditionally a day of hectic consumption, huge sales, the malls jammed, people trying to “get their Christmas shopping done.” (An odd way to see giving, isn’t it?)
Those of us who observed Buy Nothing Day simply pledged not to spend any money that day. Sounds simple, but it wasn’t. You’d be baking and run out of sugar and have to borrow a cup from a neighbor, like in the old days, when folks just didn’t “run to the store.” You’d get bored, but couldn’t go to a movie. You had to make sure you had gas in the car.
This poem sprang off that experience to imagine a simpler and more satisfying life that would be in many ways a throwback to the world of my childhood at its best. In the poem, I assumed people would choose this life. Instead, the busy consumer economy/lifestyle has toppled all around us. Yet, perhaps we will find new satisfactions in a more down-to-earth way of living.
by Jeanne Desy
One year, children, everyone got fed up . . .
and stopped buying.
Nobody went to the mall that year,
nobody went to WalMart or
ate fast food or frozen pizza,
flew on a plane, bought a CD.
The economy came to a halt.
Unemployment rose to 50 percent.
The people who liked to work found work
and the rest stayed home with the kids.
Everyone planted gardens,
and cooked their own food
and cleaned their own houses,
everyone did their own laundry,
washed their own cars in the summer twilight.
People wore slippers around the house.
The market declined for designer shoes,
theme parks and day care, acrylic nails
and Prozac, cellphones and pagers.
Ringing and beeping tapered off, and
the air was spacious and quiet.
Nobody played the lottery, couldn’t afford to,
and no one bought guns.
There was not much to steal anymore,
and not much to fight over now.
Everyone had enough to eat
and a roof over their heads.
That seemed to be what mattered.
The tax base eroded—there was
no money for missiles now, no money for war.
Young men stayed home and tended gardens.
Old men designed wonderful toys,
grandmas made biscuits and everyone learned to sew.
Happiness blossomed, addictions declined,
no money for drugs now, anyway nothing to escape.
People grew their own catnip and drank tea
made with mint from their gardens,
and ate nastursiums and heirloom tomatoes.
Without ads, the TV went quiet.
There were no celebrities now,
everyone made their own music
with home-made drums and ancient guitars,
and told the old stories and wrote poems
with pencil on paper and read them out loud
over the breakfast table. Factories closed.
The planet cooled, the air cleared.
You could see the stars.
Wildflowers grew where there had been lawns,
rabbits came back to the yard, and foxes and owls.
The old folks sat on porches with dogs at their feet,
and shelled peas. Barefoot women
hung sheets to dry in the sun.
Everyone just took care of themselves
and each other, and
no one was rich anymore, so no one felt poor.
Now that there wasn’t so much,
there was more than enough.
© Jeanne Desy 2000