133. Thomas Thinks

Takes the cake. How
Stupid can she
Be? Well, reckon
I’ll find out.
Not asked to that
Pounding! All
The ladies were. So
She’s not asked–but
Was before.
Before that damn….

Up astride his
Tractor, sweat
Vibrating down his
Back, Tom thought:
Must plow fields in
Fallow to kill
Weeds–or lose your
Check, you’d break your
Contract with
The Government. Tom
Looked off, sighed.

This field was George
Caitlin’s. But he
Would not plow. Might
Lose his check. So
Riah’d plowed it
Last week, and now
Tom wrapped up.
George had not been
Thinking very clear.
His wife couldn’t
Make him leave his
Chair. “I won’t
Work a dead field
One more day!” he’d
Shouted–“Let me be!”
Maybe tired of
Bare dirt staring back.

Or off his
Rocker. But me–
I got all my
Wits! Tom laughed
Aloud. Why, sure! I
Know it all, know
Rain follows the plow!
Thing is: when? Next
Century? Next year?

Tractor spun up
Dust: Thomas swallowed.
Lately men joked
At the Red and White–
What’s the difference
In this place and
Hell?
Answer: Well, Hell
You can plow.

But for him we
Plow here: plow for
Roosevelt.
Rather, for his
Checks, those “rental”
Checks for land. No
Checks, then we don’t
Plow: no, nothing
Doing. Pay us,
And we will.
No checks, we don’t
Eat–or could go
On Relief….
Thomas startled:
Were folks thinking
He’d gone on
Relief? So they’d not
Asked her to that
Pounding? Thought she’d
None to spare?
Worst disgrace: to
Be too poor to
Help. But Hank Jakes’
Wife, they’re on
Relief, and she’d been
Asked.

Did they think him
Trash? Was it
The windmill?–that,
Though an owner,
He’d asked tenants’
Help? Beholden
To them? Damn it,
Though–contraption
Worked! No,
It was Riah.
Her they’d snubbed.
That meant just one
Thing. Must be
That Kemp woman
Puts them off. Well,
Riah’s warned!

Tractor jerked and
Snagged–Tom jumped off,
Touching ground.
Glanced behind him.
Lord, he’d done one
Row plowed crazy-like!–
Not straight!–he kicked
Dirt. Well, what
To do? That Riah,
What a mule!
He would, could not
Stoop to speak
Direct….Well, shoot!
Wish I’d gone and plowed it
Sideways, plowed to
China, blades stuck
To the hilt….What’s
Wrong with me?

A hot wind
Scribbling at the tractor: Thomas
Drew a breath.
The air round him
Cleared. He thought: what’s
Wrong with her?
All the rows she’d
Plowed lay plain before him,
Flawless, like his,
Product of her steady
Farmer’s hand. The field
Lay serene.

In the distance
When Tom gazed, he
Could make out his
Windmill. Claptrap
Mongrel that was
Groaning as it
Pumped–
Thomas scowled–
Pumping, groaning,
Bringing water
Up from underground.

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