In Joy Nibb’s “Ramblings” she presents two poems side-by-side ‘A Vendor’s Complaint’ and ‘The Market’. These two poems, while they can stand alone, are best read together as they provide contrasting perspectives of the value of goods in a marketplace and contrasting value judgements of the people present therein.
In ‘A Vendor’s Complaint’ we hear a salesperson making their argument against bartering, their prices low enough,’
…For six cents and not a nickel more…
With the denomination of currency cared about being a nickel, not the penny they so willingly drop to make a sale.
...”Just a nickel and this lovely bunch could be yours”…
The vendor complains about those too poor to buy, and how they provide free rice. How the poor and begging people break them down as they struggle under their debt to make their own ends meet, but they still end up finding a way to give more and more. The vendor speaks of children returning to no home and starving in the night. These people that they give to, that they try to get service in return to make it a fair trade.
The vendor then compares themselves to the beggars by doing this work in exchange for a fair trade in exchange for God to provide them with entrance to heaven once they die. The vendor believes that this trade should make them favored. It could be argued that this negates the acts because these are not acts of selflessness and instead are acts of trying to win favor.
By comparison, in ‘The Market’ we are introduced to one of the beggars, a starving child, Little Timmy, that runs to the stall and steals one of the vendor’s tomatoes. We observe that the market goers argue over that one cent difference of five cents versus six. The vendor is no longer as selfless as they view themselves, but neither are the patrons – they are rude, bickering, griping, snapping. Each arguing over what is “fair”.
A tomato stealthily slides off of the stall, almost unnoticed. The vendor shouts, “Thief!” angrily. The child dashes away, eating the tomato as quickly as he can and makes it away this time. This is all that child eats today. There’s an emphasis that this is survival of another day – there is no end game besides the day to day. As he returns to a cold alley, alone, nothing is left behind. Once the market empties, even after that tomato was consumed as a lost profit to the vendor, the market looks the same, but that child is still hungry, still cold, and still alone.
Yet, the last three lines leave the reader with the enigma that is the abstract concept of fairness.
A profit lost
A profit gained
In the market, it’s all just the same
What do you think? Did you enjoy reading about these poems? Would you like to see more poetry discussion? Feel free to leave a comment!