Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
On a Window Display in a Western City
By William Rose Benét
 
HE changed the card, and pointed, and he twirled himself around
To show the sack suit’s jaunty cut, “a twenty-dollar treat.”
Behind the wide show-window’s glass he ogled, strutted, frowned,
Disposed his collar, shot his cuffs, and twinkled, head to feet.
I stood amid the gaping crowd and watched him from the street.        5
 
That vest-adjusting marionette, that little lacquered slave
In serge and tweed without a crease, disported, deft and droll,
To coax our custom. Left and right he postured, pert or grave.
He arched his chest; he tried to smoothe—what creases from his soul?
I wondered if his underwear was one great thread-webbed hole!        10
 
A subtle pathos reached from him, for all his flashy strut,
We all would fain usurp the stage. ’Twas his heroic dream,
But warped by shrewd necessity; a climbing from the rut,
Like some bedraggled butterfly that crawls from grime to gleam,
However evanescent, where the public dump-heaps steam.        15
 
Tin cans and broken bottles often flash a diamond ray!
A little sun will dry the mire on wings that missed their mark!
I wondered whither went his bright-shod feet at end of day.
Did drink or drugs devour his soul? Perhaps in mornings dark
He crawled to some damp bench and stretched ’neath papers in the park.        20
 
Such thoughts contribute saving grace. Believe them? Lord, I must!
If voluntary choice were—this!—it turns the stomach, quite,—
Where once these streets were open range, horned cattle stamped the dust,
And, bronzed and brown, unknown to town’s insane electric light,
Beneath the deep blue, star-pricked skies men rode the herd by night!        25
 
 
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