James Whitcomb Riley

A Barefoot Boy

A barefoot boy! I mark him at his play—

For May is here once more, and so is he—

His dusty trousers, rolled half to the knee,

And his bare ankles grimy, too, as they:

Cross-hatchings of the nettle, in array

Of feverish stripes, hint vivdly to me

Of woody pathways winding endlessly

Along the creek, where even yesterday

He plunged his shrinking body—gasped and shook—

Yet called the water "warm," with never lack

Of joy. And so, half enviously I look

Upon this graceless barefoot and his track—

His toe stubbed—ay, his big toe-nail knocked back

Like unto the clasp of an old pocketbook.