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The Counterfeiter


When he was starting out, still green,

He used to make a signature mistake

So that his hidden talent could be seen,

Reversing the flag above the White House roof.

It made him feel ingenious and aloof

To signify his forgeries as fake.


He always liked his jokes, but they are private.

Sometimes, when he is pressed about his trade,

He answers with a shrug, "I draw a profit"

Or "I trust in God."  Nobody ever laughs.

In the den, above two ebony giraffes,

Hangs the first dollar that he ever made.


But making money is an enterprise

Of tedious, grave concerns.  To reproduce

These symboled reproductions, his hands and eyes

Must settle on what others merely see,

The couples, columns and the Model T,

And all the framework, intricate, abstruse,


And difficult to copy by design,

With fine acanthuses and cycloid nets.

He must account for every tiny line

To duplicate the sad and distant stare

Beneath the breaking waves of Jackson's hair,

If he would tender these to pay his debts.


He has invested his adult career

In being perfect when he goes to press,

An artistry both humble and severe.

Down at the basement desk, long hours pass

With a burin and magnifying glass.

No one suspects his notable success.


He profits by his anonymity,

But deep regret competes with honest pride:

To labor toward complete obscurity

And treasure a craft that will efface his will,

Render his name unknown and all his skill

Unrecognized, long after he has died.


Greg Williamson



From The Silent Partner, Story Line Press,

1994.  Reprinted by permission of the author
and Story Line Press, Ashland, Oregon.

Background by
Ambo Graphics

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