105. The Day

          MAMA,
          DOCTOR HE COMES HE?
SURE.
          DOCTOR COMES HERE?
SURE.
          MARKIE I FEEL
          I. LEGS HIS
          HOT.
FACE HIS.
          TUMMY TOO.
          LEGS.
WHY NOT YOU PLAY YOU?
          MARKIE–
          NECK FEELS STIFF.
PLAY YOU OUTSIDE.
TANSY HAS NEW
DOLL.
          WHERE?
DOLL I MADE. MY
KNIFE.
          WENT OUT–WHO?
 WHERE?
          WENT FOR DOCTOR?
SISTER.
           TANSY SHE SLOW
          SHE. SEND ME.
TANSY CAME BACK.
          LONG TIME. DOCTOR
           COMES?
STUPID–
TOLD YOU I.
          TANSY BACK LONG
          TIME. HAPPEN
          DOCTOR WILL NOT
          COME, HE SENDS NURSE HE?
          KNOWS NO MONEY
          HERE? WILL TAKE OUR
          PROMISE, TAKE OUR
          WORD?
SIGNS I KNOW NOT.
          DAMN. DOCTOR
          NICE?
SURE.
          MARKIE. NECK.
PLAY NOW. YOU GO
OUTSIDE.
I TIRED I.
          MARKIE
          HOT.

On the floor she
Sat with legs straight out,
Her face
Quizzical and oddly
Smoothed. No
Muscle moved:
Barker’s mother,
Silent.
Was it time?
Was it now, the day?
The day she had
Postponed by her wits–
Skirted and
Escaped from all these
Years–dodged
By a Relief order,
Or sometimes by
Bullying a nurse. Or
Chicken for the doctor.
Or by moving,
Selling that old car–
That bought one meal
Daily for two weeks–
First time she had
Seen the kids well fed.
In that week,
They’d revealed
Themselves as they might
Be–or might have been:
Tumbling, laughing,
Poking, stomachs
Full–not sleeping
By the wall for
Hour after hour,
Till as she would
Watch them, she got
Scared–would
Order them to
Wake up and go
Play.
“All right, Ma.” Obedient,
Out the door they’d
Drag, while glancing back.
Watched her always
For a chance of
Food. Go
Play, she’d said,
Thinking jumprope, tag.
She’d checked. In
The grass they lay
Asleep.

Tansy, twelve. Her
Oldest. Twelve years.
Seems an age!
Past twelve years of
Random lucky days–catching
Rabbits, sucking bones.
She thought: twelve years
Slipping penny candy
Up my sleeve. Well,
She had held it
Off long as she could–
Always knowing
It would catch up
One day just the same.
No escape.
Just the next
Delay.

Markie, sick.
Not the typhoid.
Something.
She’d run out of
Tricks. It was
Over. Done.

Nobody would
Come.

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