The New Faustus

by Nat Norland

Behind the great iron gate
And the tall ornate doors;
Down in the basement
That’s where he hides himself.
The alchemist: hunched at his workbench
Suit stained dark with oil.
He’s burned the tips of his fingers
Clean away, and there is only a blackened stump
Where his tie used to be.
He doesn’t leave the room now
He says he’s too close.

He says it’s all in the numbers.
He adjusts his instruments
Fiddles with the balance sheets.
This man is a miracle worker
A real magician, all clever hands
And quick distractions.
With the right equipment;
Pen, paper, chemicals and a rolled up note,
He’ll turn anything into gold.

It stays behind closed doors
Behind barred gates.
We all know something
Can’t come from nothing.
That it doesn’t make sense. But that’s
The beauty of it. He doesn’t even need
To keep up a pretense.

There’s a price to placing bets, a stain
He can’t quite wash away.
If it all blows up in his face,
When they find him, will they wonder
Who came to collect his debts?