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.

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