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How much better they were, the old bills—
Lincoln and Hamilton, Jackson and Grant,
steel-engraved faces, jabots and stocks,
high collars, wide lapels, and lips and eyes
as alive as those of a cornered mouse,
a killing precision in each spidery line
engraved with the fervor of a saint
going blind by the light of dying gods.
Now only Washington is still that way,
not milky and inflated and surrounded
by palely tinted anti-counterfeit
devices but plain in two greens, the gaze
unflinching in its oval, deadly and grave,
a nation-maker’s unrelenting glint
insisting that this note is legal tender,
demanding we redeem it with our blood.
John Updike (1932–2009) is best known for his Rabbit series of novels. He also wrote many collections of poetry, including Tossing and Turning, Facing Nature, and Americana and Other Poems.
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But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.
The vast hinterlands of the Global South’s cities are generating new solidarities and ideas of what counts as a life worth living.
Protests in China are shining a light not only on the country’s draconian population management but restrictions on workers everywhere.