Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

‘Speak Wealth’: a poem by Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash


Michael writes: Both the title and tone of this poem are inspired by Michèle Lalonde’s famous 1974 macaronic poem ‘Speak White’ which expresses Francophone anger at English-language arrogance and dominance in Quebec Province. I first heard the poem performed by French-Canadian dramatist Robert LePage in the London staging of his play 887; but there is also a powerful reading by the author on YouTube here.  



    Speak Wealth


Speak Wealth!
Hold forth on offshore holdings;
rhapsodize on themed investments;
make a song and dance about
financial instruments.
And don’t short sell yourself. You’re smart
as Archimedes: leverage
will lift you up the rich list.

Speak Wealth
so we can overhear you.
Boast into your mobile phone
or get the media to tell us
of your newest acquisition
or your latest self-indulgence.

We get by on smaller change –
the sort that fits in off-peak meters,
slot machines or gaps in floorboards.

We must juggle obligations,
as we walk the fraying wire
stretched between each pair of paydays;
this makes us proficient
in precarious arithmetic.

We perform for pence outside
the court for petty debtors. Elsewhere,
in soft-leather-furnished chambers,
lawyers speak forensic Wealth
to demonstrate non-payment
of your fiscal liabilities
is not a fraudulent evasion
but permissible avoidance.




Speak Wealth
and you’ll get listened to.
Abundance and Authority
both begin with A;
and likewise there’s a valid link between
Prosperity and Piety –
remember that the Bible says
To those who have shall more be given
(but we have-nots aren’t exempt
from losing even what we have).

We’re confident this verse endorses
your strong views on market forces;
oddly though it fails to mention
Trickle Down – that’s your invention...

… since another scripture states
You’ll always have the poor with you.
So if you want to camouflage
this status that’s routinely quo
distract us with the parable
where Dives spares a kindly word
for Lazarus outside his gate:
Watch out! Some poorer men might come
and try to steal your begging bowl!




Wealth speakers learn unwritten rules
and only talk of speculating
in the future perfect tense.
Best not to use the verb to lose
unless it’s in the past historic.

You’ll soften your imperatives
by putting on a passive voice –
We really are to be believed
but those who doubt us can’t be trusted –
while a subtly placed subjunctive
makes a no sound less oppressive:
It would not be right for us
to increase payments at this time.

The plural form is much preferred
for third- and second-person pronouns –
not the first though: that’s employed
as singular exclusively.




Classic dialects of Wealth
abandon too-direct commands
in favour of oblique suggestion.
Simply murmur It’s quite dark
as if the words could conjure up
a string of instant fairy lights
and a working power source
without a tiresome need to mention
dynamos and armatures
or cables, trenches, spades and sweat.

We cannot match such eloquence
and only manage pidgin forms
of how you talk – which must offend
an ear expecting standard Wealth
the way it’s always been received.

You may feel smug as you dismiss
the notion of us having Wealth
even as a second language;
but, for all your fluency
in affluence, we have our doubts
that you would manage to afford
the price you’d pay in self-esteem
for learning how we’d hate to be
mistaken for a native speaker.