Incident on Madison Avenue
by Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)
On Saturday, amid the crowd
That in the sunshine drifted by,
I wandered happy as a cloud
Afloat with fellow-cumuli,
Till suddenly, and face to face,
I came on Mr. Morgan's place.
On Mr. Morgan's house I came,
Where wonder brought me to a standstill.
The iron gates were yet the same,
The gardens stretched on either hand still.
But, oh, I noticed, nearly fainting,
How window sills cried out for painting.
As shabby and as weather-beat
As those of mortgage-bearing biped,
The sashes shamed that shining street;
They were not even washed and wiped
And staring on that sight appalling,
I felt the world around me falling.
Upon my ears the tumbrels sounded,
While wealth decayed and Fortune groaned.
I looked on Privilege, surrounded,
The Mighty from their seats dethroned.
And quick, in terror and abasement,
I fled each drear, unpainted casement.
Now, hidden from the curious gapers,
I weep and know the end is near.
I have not dared to read the papers,
Lest they should tell me what I fear:
That mine and Wall Street's Patron Saint
Cannot afford a can of paint.
from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times Three: Selected Verse from Three Decades with Seventy New Poems by Phyllis McGinley, forever beloved by Davy for writing E Is for Escalator