We are a public forum committed to collective reasoning and the imagination of a more just world. Join today to help us keep the discussion of ideas free and open to everyone, and enjoy member benefits like our quarterly books.
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.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
Our well-being depends on a better understanding of how the logic of labor has twisted our relationship with pleasure.
“I was my father’s son. My father was Nai Nai’s least favorite.” A Taiwanese American man, driven from home by a secret, reevaluates his childhood memories of his grandmother.
MacArthur Genius Kelly Lytle Hernández makes the case for why U.S. history only makes sense when told as a binational story.