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.