“The delicacy of difference between the beans I count and one uncounted bean”

~ by Henry Taylor

“It may seem morbid of an embezzler to keep a memorandum, but many of them do. It may be mere neatness.”  Wallace Stevens

I’ve made a little sluice-gate in the flow
of cash across the spreadsheet on my screen.
Amid torrential chaos and foreseen
disasters it maintains its small and slow
on-off diversions, so my work can show
the delicacy of difference between
the beans I count and one uncounted bean,
and where the latter might invisibly go.

The hollowed shoe-tree, the hermetic jar
are gadgetry I might revert to yet.
There is the money of the thing, the far
secure retirement years, the deep-hedged bet,
but I love working where the unknowns are
and writing down what I need to forget.


Henry Taylor parodies the grandiloquent title of one of Wallace Stevens’ most knotty and abstruse poems, “The Final Soliloquy Of The Interior Paramour.”

While a great poet, Stevens was also a highly placed executive in an insurance corporation. Thus Taylor refers here to morbidity, foreseen disasters, torrential chaos, and sluice-gates diverting the flood. Almost all these insurance-related terms are being punned upon.

Diversions refer to an embezzler’s illegally diverting funds. Morbidity is a severe degree of unhealthiness. Making a memorandum means keeping a record. And, of course, bean-counting is accountancy.

Morbidity here is psychological, a sort of death-drive, or “thanatos,” in the bean counter’s overly punctilious record keeping. A fatal compulsion. Accountants are notoriously driven to be fastidious about showing their work.