The Trickle-Down Theory of Happiness

By Philip Appleman b. 1926 Philip Appleman
Out of heaven, to bless the high places,   
it falls on the penthouses, drizzling   
at first, then a pelting allegro,
and Dick and Jane skip to the terrace   
and go boogieing through the azaleas,   
while mommy and daddy come running   
with pots and pans, glasses, and basins   
and try to hold all of it up there,
but no use, it’s too much, it keeps coming,   
and pours off the edges, down limestone
to the pitchers and pails on the ground, where   
delirious residents catch it,
and bucket brigades get it moving   
inside, until bathtubs are brimful,   
but still it keeps coming, that shower   
of silver in alleys and gutters,
all pouring downhill to the sleazy   
red brick, and the barefoot people   
who romp in it, laughing, but never   
take thought for tomorrow, all spinning   
in a pleasure they catch for a moment;   
so when Providence turns off the spigot   
and the sky goes as dry as a prairie,
then daddy looks down from the penthouse,   
down to the streets, to the gutters,   
and his heart goes out to his neighbors,   
to the little folk thirsty for laughter,   
and he prays in his boundless compassion:   
on behalf of the world and its people   
he demands of his God, give me more.

Philip Appleman, “The Trickle-Down Theory of Happiness” from New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996. Copyright © 1996 by Phillip Appleman. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Arkansas Press,

Source: Poetry (August 1983).


This poem originally appeared in the August 1983 issue of Poetry magazine

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August 1983


Poet, novelist, editor, and Darwin expert Philip Appleman is known for his biting social commentary and masterful command of form. The author of numerous volumes of poetry, three novels, and half a dozen collections of prose, Appleman’s range of subject matter includes Darwin, politics, morality, and sex. Art Seidenbaum in the Los Angeles Times described Appleman’s second novel, Shame the Devil (1981) as entertaining and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Humor & Satire, Social Commentaries, Arts & Sciences, Class, Money & Economics

Poetic Terms Metaphor

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