Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Robert Gibb: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

“Sharecropper’s Work Shoes”

Photo by Walker Evans, 1936

.

The Magritte who took issue with the ordinary

Would have tipped them with toes.

 

Evans, deferential, simply sets them before us

On the dusty earth: undone laces,

 

A dog-eared tongue, the walk-a-mile knowledge

They invite us to try on.

 

*

Posed side-by-side for their photograph,

They seem both left behind and all that’s left,

 

Scuffed up and rumpled, cured with sweat.

For Agee, they’re one more talisman

 

Of the rural poor he’ll spend his pages praising.

A people for whom austerity is a way to make do.

 

*

We called them clodhoppers in high school,

The term, by extension, the person as well—

 

Hillbilly, hayseed, hick—a naïf to neon

And the chrome-streamed city streets.

 

Not something we’d be caught dead in,

Though in five years’ time I’d be lacing mine up.


 

Copyright 2018 Robert Gibb

.

Walker Evans: ‘The work boots of Floyd Burroughs, cotton sharecropper. Hale County’

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