Thoreau’s grave, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.
„Eh, Mr Poet, is it you? How do you like the world to-day?“
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Coming back from a reading Mr Poet feels flat broke. He sold a book for twenty dollars that he had previously purchased in the book shop for twenty-four. Earnings: Minus $ 4.
„How much is my poetry worth?“ he asks himself at the desk in his studio. So he takes a pencil, a sheet of paper, writes „Assets“ and lists:
The amount of money he has in his savings accounts, in savings and loan associations, in credit unions, in time deposits, in cash in his wallet, in the fridge at home and in this wooden box in the garage.
The cash value of his life insurance.
The value of his United States Savings Bonds.
The market value of stocks and fund shares.
The market value of mortgages he has extended to others.
The money he would get if he put his house and land, and his summer studio on the market this week.
The money he would get if he offered his car to a used car dealer, the boat to a boat dealer.
The market value of his household goods: furniture, rugs, TV, stereo, linen, silverware. He makes his own conservative estimate, then slashes it by fifty percent and freckons he is on safe ground.
The market value of the paintings, rare books, art objects, coins, stamps and antiques. He arrives at his estimate, then slashes it by ninety percent.
Unpleasantly surprised by the outcome, he yells: „I’m even poorer than I thought!“
From now on Mr Poet avoids restaurants where he has to give tips to a large staff – headwaiter, maître d’hotel, doorman, hat check girl, rest-room attendant. He has a couple of drinks at home before going out.
He later writes: „The poorhouse vision for a long time made the drapery of my dreams.“