Hucksters, Inner City
By Rita Janice Traub
“Strawberries” was the huckster’s call,
morning and afternoon,
from a mild day in misty May
through the green weeks of June.
“Watermelones,” the next one cried,
“melones, red to the rind.”
Into the alley we would race,
strawberries left behind.
One huckster chanted, “Raspberries,”
another, “Sugar corn”
(cadences from a time before
any of us were born).
The huckster I remember best
waited till August heat.
His horse would clop the cobblestones
down where the alleys meet.
No food he hawked, just curios
that he called, “Rags and bones,”
his face cadaverous, his voice
deepest of baritones.
He’d let you climb aboard his cart
to sift through odds and ends.
Somehow he always frightened me
though he and Dad were friends.
Fall’s harbinger he must have been.
Trees balded more each day.
The scissors grinder made his rounds,
but hucksters stayed away.
Say “June,” and I’ll think, ”Strawberries,”
But just the one word “summertime”
conjures up “Rags and bones.”