123. Applause

“Change that word
Ain’t,” James said.
Barker smiled: he
Knew. “It does sound
Right there,” James admitted.
He and Barker
Checked each other’s
Work. James was
Thinking, high mark
For this theme.
Might make up for
Barker’s history
Quiz. Barker
Couldn’t catch
The lectures, failed
The tests.

“Ma, read this!”–to
Riah, broom in tow,
As the two boys
Sat out on James’ porch.
She took up
The paper, reading
Slow, as always, moving
Word to word, and
Skipping long ones.
But she knew good
Writing: she could
Tell. Finished,
She bent down to
Barker. She placed
Her hand lightly
On his shoulder,
Dusting some crust
From around his ear.
His face, red. James

“You boys write so
Good, the both of you!
How about–
The last of that red
James forgot his
Jealousy: “Yes,

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