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The Trickle-down Theory of Happiness

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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, www.uapress.com.
Source: New and Selected Poems 1956-1996 (University of Arkansas Press, 1996)

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

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The Trickle-down Theory of Happiness

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