For What It’s Worth


How far can I expect to get? No good skill
wants to be called mine. For what it’s worth,
having no talent does come in handy—ill
can come from being in demand. I do rhyme
on occasion. I do form from time to time.
Those habits aren’t enough to get me paid,
so how far can I go with nothing I can trade?

Maybe something in the communication trade
might suit me. That’s what’s said how any skill
with words is supposed to get a person paid
for their best efforts. For what it’s worth,
now it’s not called communicating to rhyme,
just entertaining. Others do that all the time
and it works for them, so I mean them no ill.

But it wouldn’t work for me, not without ill
side-effects I wouldn’t want. I’d not trade
for a meal or a bed what comes of the time
I spend showing off my lack of useful skill
and feel honest at it. For what it’s worth,
barter is the business equivalent of rhyme:
the one cheating most’s the one least paid.

I’ll never do what I do in order to get paid
for what I do. Money’s the root of all ill
plus everything that even seems to rhyme
with ill plus stuff you can take in trade
for more ill plus ways to cash in on skill
to do even greater ill. For what it’s worth,
I’m no saint. But ill’d be a matter of time

in my case, were I to try to barter the time
I spend doing what I do so as to get paid
for having done so. For what it’s worth,
nobody’s interested. One needn’t think ill
of what I do. Just, no one cares to trade
what the market’ll give for their own skill
to get what little I’d have for them in rhyme.

That’s all I’ve got to offer — a little rhyme,
scraps of metaphor, form some of the time
and too little of that accomplished with skill.
Who’d want to barter that? Who’d get paid
for doing that? Ill will come to who does ill
and ill and ill again. For me, it’d be fair trade
trebling those damages, for what it’s worth.

Permanently indebted. For what it’s worth,
I’ve never expected it to be more. No rhyme
can be. And rhyme’s all I’ve got I can trade
for what might be worth anyone else’s time.
I write. But only for me. I can’t have it paid
without the exchange risking doing more ill
than good, negating its value to me as a skill.

⠀⠀⠀⠀(For what it’s worth, I don’t always rhyme.
⠀⠀⠀⠀Even so, over time I’ve paid for whatever ill
⠀⠀⠀⠀my rhyming’s done in trade: I’ve no good skill.)



prompted by Daily Prompt: Barter System
at the Daily Post

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4 Responses to For What It’s Worth

  1. The execution of the poem defies the stated content — excellently.

    • Thanks.

      Except I’ll still never be able to do it like she did. The form I’m using here was one of Sara’s favorites, a 7-line 7-stanza (plus envoy) quenine, verse form species of which the sestina is but one sub-species. This particular 7-order quenine type was one of the variations presented in an essay she wrote. And she herself left some 7-order quenines that were truly excellent.

      Mine serves today’s prompt aptly, I think – I would never be able to barter it for so much as a stale cracker. As with any others I’ve done, this one was for what it did to me to write it, that’s all.

      • That’s all any of it needs to be really.
        A travelling bard would need barter for food and shelter on a cold winter’s day.
        But,
        Not being such, you suit yourself as best you desire.
        The Tao’s accountant records more than heavy coins.

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