A Feather For Poverty - Poem by Herbert Nehrlich
I do not care how much they would
give to buy me if they could.
I am poor and often starving,
desperately, slowly carving
my own way through this shady maze.
I say to those whose lusty gaze
rests, uninvited on my skin:
Your dreams of finding your small pin
inside of me will not come true.
And if in winter's cold I'm blue
of lips and without any food,
it will not get me in the mood.
I have no shelter and no bread,
and by tomorrow might be dead.
Yes. I'm a virgin, clean and proud
says this young maiden, clear and loud.
And her legs are getting leaden,
rightly sensing Armageddon.
Drags herself down to the Fountain
where a man is standing, counting
money in his fur-gloved hand,
reaching out to help her stand.
' Dear young girl, you are not well,
listen now to what I tell,
come with me up to my room
to escape your certain doom.
All the streets are full of lechers,
prostitutes and woman catchers.'
So she follows him upstairs,
seeing that perhaps he cares.
In the light of his adobe
wrapping her into his robe,
tucks her under feather cover
but refuses to be lover,
feeds her soup with silver spoon,
lets her sleep there until noon.
As she wakes she finds a box,
filled with heavy woolen socks,
bread and cheese and also money,
then she steps into the sunny
day of her old world again.
Thinking that there must be men
who are kind and altruistic,
she herself is quite artistic.
And, on that day she finds employment,
a new life full of much enjoyment,
is waiting for her signal 'YES'
but all of it becomes a mess
when the director of her work
turns out to be a cheap old jerk.
He sees her as his latest toy
to bring her, daily, carnal joy.
That night she's back out on the street,
half-dreaming of the man she'd meet
like once before, to give her kindness,
but Lady Luck displays her blindness.
Her lips are cold and very blue,
as frost arrests the morning dew,
when at the Fountain cries disturb
her sleep, and over by the curb
he stands and waves and comes across,
her head moves in defiant toss.
But when he takes her frozen hand
she grips its warmth securely and
again they climb the creaking stairs
again she puts on hold her cares.
He sets the table and they eat,
right after stretching out their feet
toward the fireplace and savour
a burgundy with Southern flavour.
He dozes off, still in his chair
when she decides to strip and bare,
she slips into the giant bed....
that's when the waking fellow said
'Of course you may sleep in my covers,
just be aware we are not lovers.'
Behind the stove he dons pyjamas
of flannel to prevent those dramas
that happen in the heat of night,
to him this sin would not be right.
And in the morning came a cry
from the outside where chickens fly.
It was that ancient Spanish cock,
he doubles as the town's own clock.
The rooster landed on the sill
and looked inside, where, sleeping still,
they lay entangled with each other.
He shook his comb, crowed 'Poultry Mother'
and flew back down to see his flock.
He thought about the man who'd mock
his morals for a horny fling
with such a poor and raggy thing.
But then, inside his cozy den
went over to his half-dressed hen
and had his usual way with her
until the dust was just a blur,
which she enjoyed because it had
been ages since this cocky lad
had shown an interest in her charms,
she'd take him back with open arms.
Upstairs, there's stirring in the covers,
and they awoke as newborn lovers.
Both took a vow to stay together.
And on the sill she found the feather.
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