Artist: Glenn Chadbourne
As an introduction to the Dark Man persona, the poem works perfectly without the illustrations, but the words hit with more force with the addition of the visual details. King, in the manner of many young poets, forgoes punctuation and capitalization. (Imagine e e cummings writing about a world that is ghastly and barren instead of “mud-luscious.”)
Even when “normal” details are included (like ripe pumpkins and tomato plants), the mood is undercut and overwhelmed by accompanying darkness (in this case, a ghastly, grinning scarecrow). The feeling of desolation grows as the poem progresses. For example, an amusement park that appears operational early in the poem shows up later as a ruined and abandoned wreck. (This particular detail was particularly poignant to me because I just finished reading the stories in the new anthology, Carniepunk.)
My recommendation is to read it through quickly the first time, concentrating on the words more than the illustrations. Then, read it a few more times, page by page, taking in Chadbourne’s artwork with its fine, grisly details: the hollow-eyed hobos, the derelict amusement park, the barren landscape, and the Dark Man himself in all his relentless savagery as he ends his rant by leaving behind a horrific "sign to those who creep in fixed ways"—his way of warning the world that "I am a dark man."