Edgar Guest on Taxation: a poem

Today is April 15, Tax Day! And it’s still April, National Poetry Month, so after a few minutes of Googling “poems about taxes”, here’s one that’s actually not entirely pessimistic about whole affair. I could go on for a bit about Americans and their attitude on taxes, but I won’t, except to note that somehow American conservatives have managed to convince a great many Americans over the last few decades that the thing holding them back is what government takes out of their paychecks, which is a handy way of also getting Americans to now wonder what their employers aren’t putting in those paychecks in the first place.

Anyway, here is “Taxes” by Edgar Guest, a poet once called “the People’s Poet”, and whose work isn’t highly regarded these days, if indeed it ever was; Dorothy Parker once quipped, “Id rather flunk my Wasserman Test than read a poem by Edgar Guest.” Ouch. (Yes, I had to look up what a Wasserman Test is.)

When they become due I don’t like them at all.
Taxes look large be they ever so small
Taxes are debts which I venture to say,
No man or no woman is happy to pay.
I grumble about them, as most of us do.
For it seems that with taxes I never am through.

But when I reflect on the city I love,
With its sewers below and its pavements above,
And its schools and its parks where children may play
I can see what I get for the money I pay.
And I say to myself: “Little joy would we know
If we kept all our money and spent it alone.”

I couldn’t build streets and I couldn’t fight fire
Policemen to guard us I never could hire.
A water department I couldn’t maintain.
Instead of a city we’d still have a plain
Then I look at the bill for the taxes they charge,
And I say to myself: “Well, that isn’t so large.”

I walk through a hospital thronged with the ill 
And I find that it shrivels the size of my bill. 
As in beauty and splendor my home city grows, 
It is easy to see where my tax money goes
And I say to myself: “if we lived hit and miss
And gave up our taxes, we couldn’t do this.”

(Text via)

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