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Home: The Toast

David Brooks’ previous sestina about the road to character can be found here.

I think we will all agree that bad relationships
cause poverty.
Also, not acting like someone in the Jane Jacobs book, and not having a “code.”
It is certainly not caused by rich people
owning almost every single thing
including money that others might potentially need.

Of course I understand that we all have needs.
But it’s so important for the have-nots to get that troubled relationships
to both people and things
are principally at fault for their level of poverty,
and I truly believe that if these people
could somehow get the keys to a very wonderful code

that middle class people intuitively know, this code
which once understood is all anyone needs
to become useful Jane Jacobs neighborhood cut-out hero-people,
it would all be fine! Of course our relationship
to poverty
is such a pesky thing

that we’re always reworking and just, well, a thing
whose mysteries, whose unsolved code
I myself am secretly grateful for because poverty
and other forms of social instability are problems I desperately need
to be the smart one, and the paid one, in all my relationships.
Intractable problems let me be the voice this country’s upper middle class people

listen to when forced to come to grips with those other people
who – how to put this – maybe just don’t have as many things,
lack that an enviable Jane Jacobs balletness in their relationships,
and finally, who lack the code
mentioned earlier, that they would need
to extricate themselves from the death-grip of poverty.

Have I ever experienced poverty?
No, probably like not like most poor people.
I mean to do so I would really need
to get rid of a lot of things
and maybe publish my house alarm code
So that I could be robbed by someone with whom I have no prior relationship

In conclusion, if you feel like you need something –
like, say, money – but you’re suffering from poverty, know that we as a people
are getting ready to help you learn a code and develop better relationships.

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Sarah Miller is the author of the novels Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl. She has written for many publications and lives in Nevada City, CA.

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