I am, Madam., no beggar, but a peddler of dreams,
Purveyor of the Gospel of Beauty, Reciter of Rhymes . . .
And they regarded him from the shadows of their porches,
country women: the “Sharecropper’s Wife,” “Woman of the High Plains,”
or their mothers. You’ve seen the photos.
What he wanted was a meal and kip for the night,
this feverish, one-man Chautauqua whose sweat brought to mind
the scent of yellow deer, and to deliver unto them exalted verse:
Poe, Milton, Swinburne, or his own “Laughing Bells,” a standby,
or fairy stories, were there children on hand. There were.
And in return was served a plate of salt pork, more salt than pork,
a soup of cloudy, lukewarm water, tallow, wilted greens, and half-raw biscuits.