Future Value

1 August 2015

My finance teacher, with a voice like Ghandi’s,
is trying to explain the concept of future value.

He says we’ll like finance, because it’s like time travel.
He says it’s nothing like accounting, which is all about

tallying up the deficits of the past. Finance, he says
is all about the future, and so all of its answers

(he cheerfully tells us) are wrong.
Thousands all over the world, we’re listening

to his lecture, and trying to solve the problems
that cast most of us into an ideal future of singing

the song of future value. The magic mirror of finance.
The telephone booth that takes us far into the future

on the day the final payment is made––then back
to calculating the present value of all those payments

down the sluiceway of time. Calculating
as if the winds of hazard and contingency

can be measured out to many decimal places
for my fellow students, faces glowing

from their screens, gazing at the heaven
we’ve always dreamed of––a heaven of ideas

that create value, the best ones attracting
the capital that is always hungrily searching.

So says the tiny head of my professor
who pauses from his work on formulas to stare at us

backward through the camera––each of us out there,
whether in St. Petersburg or Singapore––to say

that he believes we learn best when we have to struggle;
and that some things are too valuable to measure,

and here he offers love as an example, as if
he’s used to assuming his students are young;

and that the problems on the test will be much, much harder
than anything he’s explaining to us now.

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