At first I thought he hadn't got the brass,
The grotzits, the mazumas, the old rub,
No means to oil a palm, or charm a pub,
With rounds for all, and hence a simple ass,
And as I could not hide my thought's swift pass
Across my face, he looked about to blub.
I waved my staff to reassure the youth
And spoke of all the quaint delights and shows.
The honour of the carny: all earth knows!
And yet for him the curved earth was a truth
Unknown, my motley strange and sinister, forsooth!
And I a thing that lurked, in tattered clothes
Still at my beckoning he turned and strode
As if with dedication on to fate
As if my lot was but to see how great
He was for turning from the narrow road.
Towards hurdy-gurdies creaking like a toad
Towards the booths, the prize for guess-your-weight.
He clearly had been travelling for some time
Days and months certainly, and mayhap years
For in his eyes I thought I caught the tears
Glistening passed sleep, make runnels in the grime
The patina of dirt on pallor, ancient rime
Frosted his features with their sallow smears.
I spoke to him of tonics that we sell
But he seemed dead indeed to all my shill
And though I spoke at length with all my will
I saw no sign that he would buy, no ‘tell’
That we look for in face of ill, or well,
In hope that they may hand over a bill.