More Money than God

Richard Michelson - 1953-

my father said, again and again, shaking his head
in disbelief at any ostentation; the neighbor’s gold-
plated knocker (we still banged fists) or my own lust
to own the seductive canvas or the waxed bronze bust.
It is not only the idea—which should hold all the pleasure—
but the poet’s pencil marks on paper which we treasure
above the memorized poem. And so I fan my flushed face,
signaling the fast-talking auctioneer, who has traced 
the provenance, and picks up the pace, multiplying offers.  
And who now does my father’s bidding? Heaven’s coffers,
perhaps, are for the destitute; but why did he have to die 
to escape the shitty crime-ridden, never-to-be-gentrified          
neighborhood of both our births? The cost of living,      
he would argue, is not the worth of being alive.
But still he checked each lottery ticket which littered             
the empty lot next door, praised their silver latex glitter,
praying to the beautiful unscratched, like little gods.  
Money talks, he taught me. But nobody beats the odds.

More by Richard Michelson

Elijah vs. Santa

Weight advantage: Santa. Sugar and milk
at every stop, the stout man shimmies
down one more chimney, sack of desire
chuting behind, while Elijah, skinny
and empty-handed, slips in invisible as
a once favored, since disgraced uncle,
through the propped open side door.
Inside, I’ve been awaiting a miracle
since 1962, my 9 year-old self slouching
on this slip-covered sofa, Manischewitz
stashed beneath the cushion. Where
are the fire-tinged horses, the chariots
to transport me? Where is the whirlwind
and brimstone? Instead, our dull-bladed
sleigh rusts in the storage bin beneath
the building’s soot-covered flight   
of cellar stairs. Come back to me father,
during December’s perfect snowfall
and pull me once more up Schenck
and down Pitkin, where the line wraps
around Church Hall. Show me, again,
the snapshot of the skull-capped boy
on Santa’s lap. Let me laugh this time
and levitate like a magician’s assistant,
awed by my own weightlessness. Give me
the imagination to climb the fire escape
and look up toward the Godless Heavens
and to marvel at the ordinary sky.