COLLECTING THE RENT
Devil himself along the red clay unpaved road
comes in a red suit bright as the sun of March
up onto the porch to ask directions; so many lost souls
in some parts obscure the reasons for being
in the first place there–accidents of birth, some say;
others claim that fate or destiny will work that way
Work is what it is. Lost souls damned to the mornings
of waking to it and condemned to the long hot middays
of it returning at night to curse the momentum of days
of it sleep resting from it day-to-day unchanged works
on the soul ’til Sunday frenzy of loafing on a frontporch.
Then the devil himself in his damned red suit asks after
so-and-so or his son, the woman or her daughter never,
or almost never, for some reason. He comes asking
directions and they never know where nor heard tell
of him except he might be up the road a piece might well
have died in his sleep a year ago alone in his shack; hell,
aint it a mite late to come for collecting when a man’s bone
that ought to be in the ground by now fretting the worms
just goes to dust in his bed, the meaning of dead-tired.
But come to think on it, not that fellow you want but Jack.
I do think ’tis Jack. Jack you want. Fellow with all yellow
hair comes round the field to count bushel-at-a-dollar;
Old dollar-bushel Jack, he’s who you oughts go after.
They laugh up their sleeves as the sun goes down on the fellow
along the red clay unpaved road walking then they go to their
beds with their dark faces wrinkled in dark thought: who’s next.
They wake surprised to bright red sun of the morning next
to the women who will send that devil in the red suit
along the road back to their shack. Lord, I aint next.
But will be soon. And each knows it: Work’s what it is.