With their loan-shark rate of magnification —
This loupe, conspiring, in a pocket fits
The sharpest deal; its polished surface bends
With all the profligacy of the lens
That promises a diamond as big as the Ritz.
The Ritz is as small as a diamond
Seen from the opposite end; Oh shock of loss
From El Dorado shrunken to an island;
Denominations change the cash and cost
Of piety and payoffs: Eyes are tithe-men.
Prism rates redouble the yield from diamondry;
Vigorish and visions rise at both ends —
Powers of ten or darkness bent on simony
At whose percent the magnifier lends.
NOTES for Students of English
Vig – Short for “vigorish” – A charge taken on bets by a bookie, or interest paid to a moneylender; from the Yiddish and Russian word vyigrysh “winnings.”
Loupe – A small magnifying lens used by jewelers.
A Diamond as Big as the Ritz – “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” is the title of a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald; a leading character boasts that his rich father has a diamond as big as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
El Dorado – A mythical place of fabulous wealth.
Denominations – Used in two senses of the word: religious sects and paper money values.
Tithe-men – Ecclesiastical tax collectors; the traditional tithe was 10%; “Eyes are tithe-men” means that an onlooker wants a share for himself of something desirable.
Simony – The buying or selling of lucrative church positions.