The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 13 no. 2


Jacob Polley

The Cheapjack


What do I have for as near as damn it?
What do I sell but I’m giving away?
  Might I pick my own pockets
  and slit my own throat
and dump myself dead in a shop doorway?

Daffodils, bird whistles, bobble hats,
fickle fish, slinkies, your name spelled in wire;
  caterpillars, mouse mats,
  trick plastic dog-shit,
conniptions, predictions and God’s own fire.

I’ve bargained myself to Bedlam and back
and a wonder it is that I’m not less flesh,
  for I’d sell you the scraps,
  the loose skin, the slack,
the tips of my toes and the last of my breath

and might as well for the good my breath’s done;
I’ve blown suits, jobs, marriages, houses and lands:
  I’m a man overcome
  by his profligate tongue
and if you get close, you can stand where I stand.

What’ll it cost? Not as much as you think.
What have you got? That’ll do. Here’s my nod,
  here’s my wink,
  here’s my blood for the ink.
I’m begging you now: my life for the lot.