Catherine Masterman offers a poem for Fairtrade Fortnight, broadening our horizons to consider the wider supply chain behind our purchases.
As a child I thought shops made the things they sold. The idea that toys were made the other side of the world seemed outlandish. With online shopping it seems almost like magic. But, as Fairtrade Fortnight highlights, everything we buy is made and put together by real people, living real lives, every step of the way.
“I saw a bargain today”
A fabulous dress;
A pair of shoes:
Much cheaper online
How could I refuse?
Arriving tomorrow, at no extra cost.
I hurried to ‘click’, before it was lost.
But just as I hovered, I heard someone say
“Let me show you who paid for your bargain today”.
She showed me the fields where the cotton was grown;
And the pitiful payment the farmers took home.
She showed me the rivers where pesticides flow;
And the fields alongside them, where crops barely grow.
I covered my ears but I still heard her say:
“There are others who paid for your bargain today”
She showed me the factories away in the East,
Where shifts are the longest and wages the least.
She showed me the workers too scared to protest
As the contracts must follow the cheapest, not best.
I told her “Enough!” but I still heard her say:
“Yet others will pay for your bargain today.”
The packers from warehouses, too tired to stand;
The child breathing fumes from the couriers round;
The fish eating fibres washed down to the deep;
The families who live near the burning trash heap;
Then my children looked up and I heard them say:
“How long ’til we pay for your bargain today?”
I saw a bargain today.
- First published on the Grain of Sand blog.
On reading this poem, illustrator Izzy Kingsmill was inspired to draw this response. “The woman’s back is towards us because she is turning her back on the issue” she says. “The poem is reflective and the use of the mirror was inspired by that, and the cupboard shows that the woman already has similar dresses. The shoes and box represent the trail of destruction.”