Nicol, Erskine, 1825-1904; Beggar My Neighbour

Let me talk with this philosopher first
This new Theban pushing his metal hearse
His home is but a bag about to burst
Or worse, melt and rot in the scorching sun –
His world, his wandering mind, burnt, undone
By time by toil by terrors by fear spun
Like a web, unhinged by life’s cry, a cage –
When we are born, we cry upon this stage
For we have entered a world enraged
With meaningless toil – sir, what’s the meaning
And cause of thunder? One asks him, gleaning
His frazzled wits. But it’s so demeaning
To circle the streets, to beg for coins as more
Hearses drive and drive and drive and drive and bore
The indifferent world through and through, passing the poor.

Is man no more than this? Is he only left a hiss?
To plead to those who miss? To leave without a kiss?
What is on his list, if his world fits in his fist?
Here lies unaccommodated man. From what lands
Do you come? Was there ever a home? To what sands
Do you seek to rest your world-weary flesh? To strand
Your mind on these shores is death. Ah! But the poor, bare,
Forked animal is not you but I – I who share
Not the plot, who stares and glares and does not seem to care.

Broom Snow
On the Corner of
Flamingo & Maryland
Las Vegas, Nevada
May 4, 2016

Painting: “Beggar My Neighbour”
By Erskine Nicol
Oil on canvas, 1855

*The second in a series of poems in which the first line originates from the Bard.


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