My husband and I just endured a “random audit” for the year his Santa Monica bookstore closed after almost 40 years of service to grateful readers, along with our fine art photography business. Just random, ma’am — we don’t mean no offense. But prove you drove your cars with oil change receipts that show mileage; and a log of where you went and why.  Prove it or else. Or maybe or else anyway. And copy up all the little receipts, some faded, in eight-point type — you have a magnifying glass don’t you? — for when you bought a ream of paper or ink or a book or a file folder or a pen. Don’t forget to copy all 300 of those checks — yes, every single one — and credit card bills and bank statements with bank charges and anything else you thought was your business because, you see, it’s really our business after all. Privacy? Ha! That’s our little joke on you. Kinda like that new-fangled and utterly delightful warrantless wiretapping, ya know.

Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable not to assault two senior citizen artists in their 70s on social security, and rip them off for six weeks of exhaustive labor of copying and searching in boxes and storage after many moves and on and on and enough stress to fell a few elephants. All work stopped that might have brought us some of that filthy lucre we all so ardently seek; the garden withered; headaches, bickering and sleepless nights were daily fare. And we could more readily see the dire effects of short-term memory deficits that were previously just inconvenient.

If the IRS policies were fair and just and rational, folks like us would not be their target, and they might have more fans and fewer detractors. Possibly. They did respond to our faxed request for more time with four identical letters arriving three weeks later, so I guess that means they got it. I will say they were generous to give us a letter-size envelope (uh, thanks anyway) to use, but the box we needed to send the eight pounds of documents we had amassed was a wee bit larger than that.

So my response, when all was said and done, and the eight-pound box was sent, was to write a few lyrics for catharsis, or the start therof.

Taxing news alert
Listen up,
Unwitting citizens:
There’s a law so big,
With so many pages
It’s almost as tall as you.
No one can read it, and
None understand it,
But so what?
It’s all still on you.
You’ll hire a magician,
A sorcerer who
Helps keep the secrets,
Charge an arm and leg, too.
To beg will do you no good
For you are the one,
When all’s said and done,
Who will have to answer.
It’s still only you.
What to do? You can’t know
How the tax code still grows
More unfathomable, immovable,
Impossible each day.
The corporations have flown,
Laughing, left town
While you groan.
Not fair! but who cares?
Most assuredly not they.
If anything’s wrong,
Doesn’t fit
Or add up,
It’s all coming to you,
So please listen up.

Oh monster IRS
Oh, monster IRS,
While under duress
I am forced today to say,
How do I hate thee?
Let me count the ways
You have no heart.
Where can I start?
Nothing you do makes sense.
You have a system
None comprehend,
Use that to steal our dollars and cents.
Your cold-blooded tactics have sent
Innocent folks round the bend.
You prey on the weak.
You know that the meek
Will not inherit as once we believed,
For the rich and fat you leave alone
With a pat on the back.
Their crimes and lies you condone,
But for the rest there is no reprieve.
You fawn o’er and flatter the corporate fat cats,
Leave them free to pretend an offshore location,
Another condo or plane or mistress they buy,
Live cheerfully indifferent to inflation.
And you stomp on the ones with less means,
And do so with oblivious elation
You spend millions on wages
To your minions, not sages,
To rifle through files and piles of pages.
No guilt, and with startling guile,
With glee turn our lives upside down
Then fine us for less than you paid
To so ruthlessly track us down
What kind of a country
Has such a monster in place
And uses it to break every rule
Of fair play and honor and decency, too?
’Tis a place I don’t know
That once made me proud.
There’s nowhere to go,
No help for those crying out loud.
So, monster IRS,
Again I must confess
How I do hate thee?
In such limitless ways
The tally’s a monster like you,
Unfathomably huge my ire it does raise
While you’re unaccountable,
My number’s uncountable,
Innumerable, countless,
A monster like you

Janice Tieken, BFA, MA, is a resident of Ventura.