Man with Briefcase

Flashback Friday featuring Philip Dacey from issue 294.2

Philip Dacey's "Leaves of Lucre" was published in the North America Review's 2009 spring issue.

Author's note: “Leaves of Lucre” appears in a completed but as as-yet-unpublished book manuscript of poems entitled The Ice-Cream Vigils: Poems on the Life and Work of Walt Whitman. If the book is ever published, it will complete what I call my Victorian trilogy, as I’ve already published whole books of poems about Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Eakins. In addition, I have published enough poems about Florence Nightingale to imagine a book of mine someday titled Four Victorians: Poems on, etc., containing those Nightingale poems and a selection of poems from the three volumes on Hopkins, Eakins, and Whitman (the latter at this point still just a hope). My history with Whitman goes back a long way (the book m.s. includes an introductory essay entitled “My Life With Walt Whitman”), to my college days when my encountering of him worked as a counterpoint to my education—good but one-sided—which consisted of eight years by Incarnate Word nuns (grade school) and eight by Jesuits (high school and college). I’ve been grateful to him ever since.creditdetail

Leaves of Lucre

Walt, I have been thinking about money.
Forgive me.

I laid myself down in the drawer of a cash register
as if it were a manger of swaddling bills.

I held the dollar sign above my mouth
and squeezed it
to live on its juice.

I thought I saw the open road
in a column of numbers.

Nowhere in a landscape of zeroes
could I find your white beard.

Not once did the butterflies Lorca saw circling your head
alight on the coins I had polished and polished
like someone masturbating.

This offer came to me:
Trade the sunlight
for a stash of gold.
And I was ready to.

I would make my life an abstraction
inside a scaffold of decimal points.

I stored my blood deep in a bank vault
and hoped it would accrue interest.

I thought if I hung large enough numbers around my neck,
I would fly.

For every plus sign,
a barbaric yawp!

But a nightmare has always recurred:
a minus sign lengthens till it loops
around my neck and pulls tight.

Walt, I confess
I took a green-faced man
in an oval frame
as my camerado.

Philip Dacey

Philip Dacey’s latest of thirteen books of poems is Church of the Adagio (Rain Mountain Press, 2014), and his previous book, Gimme Five, won the 2012 Blue Light Press Book Award. Work of his appears in Scribner's Best American Poetry 2014. The winner of three Pushcart Prizes, Dacey is the author of complete volumes of poems about Gerard Manley HopkinsThomas Eakins, and New York City. After an eight year post-retirement adventure as a resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, he moved in 2012 to the Lake District of Minneapolis.

Illustrations by Anthony Tremmaglia. He is an Ottawa-based illustrator, artist, and educator. His clients include WIREDScientific American, Smart Money, HOW, and San Francisco Weekly.