144. On The Porch

Tom remembered,
White Shoes at that
Meeting read a note–
Message just to
Them from Roosevelt–
Thomas had thought,
Sure–on how
Triple A was really
“Individualism” not
“Regimentation,” but
Where no one did
Things “that hurt his neighbors,”
But were individuals,
Only individuals
Tom watched the man
Reading out the note,
Whose lip curled as
If at something rank:
As if thinking,
What is the Boss
Up to, juggling

Takes the cake how
Slow days shuffle by:
Tom scanned
From his porch.
Had it rained,
Cotton would sprout now,
Thickly green with
Extra to be hoed–
Then some weeks with
Rain, then creamy blooms.
Six weeks from
The blossom to
The boll–that rule
They could count on,
Hoeing weeds….
Tom’s hand curved now
As if to grab
Hold. Had cash
Crop. Well–
He was lying
Some, he granted that.
Even before
Drought, the profits
Mortgage, buying
Seed….How could it
Be? Had he not
Worked? Tom
Rubbed his cheek.
Well, he must work
Harder. But for
Now, he’d sit.
At least, come
The spring, he’d use
The lister.

Riah stepped out,
Quiet, on the porch.
Tom thought: she is
Always busy-busy,
Piddling, washing,
Ironing rags they wore–
And inventing
Trifling chores for him.
“Stinks inside,” he
Snapped. Her face turned
Perfume which
Louise had worn had
Lingered. She’d been
“I’ll be boiling
Turnips. Then you’ll
Smell that,” she said.
Riah asked no
Pardon: not her way.
“Lunch is–
Turnips?”–Tom’s retort.

She pried her eyes
Off him and went in,
Weary, to the kitchen.
How hard: make
A cheerful lunch of
Riah shook her
Head while thinking:
Why did I not
See? See how much
Happiness was
Just those bits of
Color, bits of
Pieces plucked up
From the garden,
The sun-warmed green
Melons now burned dry,
Spoonful of gold
Honey on hot biscuit,
Cinnamon peach
Cobbler, coffee
Laced with cream,
Dessert, extras,
How that helped you
Get from day to day!
Louise would bring
Riah sugar lumps–
Stole them from some
Roadhouse, off somewhere.
Riah’d thought that
Silly, but
No more.
As for folks who
Never got some honey–never
One loose dime–
Worse off, Riah
Thought, worse off than
Me–well, I swear,
I’d think they’d all
Die of aggravation. That or
Kill each other,
Beat each other
Up, hard as they could.

What’s the time?
She longed for her
James, to watch him

Sitting on
The porch, Tom wished
The same.

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