More Money than God
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 Money than God" from More Money than God, by Richard Michelson, © 2015. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Richard Michelson was born on July 3, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in East New York, a neighborhood whose racial population would dramatically shift in the years when he lived there—a topic Michelson explores in his writing.
When Michelson was nineteen, he got a job traveling the country selling fine art reproductions. He toured the Midwest for three years, during which time he engaged more with art and literature. He then started his own small art gallery in 1976. In 1979, he settled in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he started R.Michelson Galleries, which he continues to run today.
Michelson is the author of four poetry collections: More Money than God (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), Battles & Lullabies (University of Illinois Press, 2006), Masks (The Gehenna Press, 1999), and Tap Dancing for the Relatives (University of Central Florida Press, 1985). In addition to his poetry collections, Michelson has also published over a dozen award-winning children’s books.
In his review of More Money than God, Martín Espada writes, “Some poets wrestle with ghosts. Richard Michelson invites them to sit at the kitchen table, crack jokes, give advice, live and die all over again. By turns philosophical, political, tender, outraged, and funny as hell, Richard Michelson is a poet to remember.”
Michelson is the host of Northampton Poetry Radio and the former poet laureate of Northampton.
More Money than God (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015)
Battles & Lullabies (University of Illinois Press, 2006)
Masks (The Gehenna Press, 1999)
Tap Dancing for the Relatives (University of Central Florida Press, 1985)
Date Published: 2016-07-13
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/more-money-god