174. Fourth of July: Louise

At the window,
She sat. Thinking:
Riah loves her
House, old raggy shed.
Me?
Sit here just
A-looking out of mine.

Bo was gone, his
Fourth of July drinking.
Always holidays and
Weekends, evenings,
Mondays, drank to
Start the week, and
Fridays, drank to
End it. Always
Liquored. Help wash
Down the days.
Louise shrugged: but
Not me. Promised
Ma.

Louise stretched her
Shoulders. I know
Every dent and
Scratch on these damn
Walls–last year’s
Calendar, the fly-specks, counted
Those–dark streaks in
Wallboard, rough patch
On the floor–
Porch boards warping
Like bad teeth. And
Ceiling–
And above
The bed, especially–
I could draw each
Knothole with eyes
Closed. I need
A smoke.

Spreading fingers as if
Holding one, Louise laughed
Out. Gee whiz!
I guess life don’t
Turn out like we
Want: first lesson
Every moron
Learns. Me too?
Everybody
Says that: what, me too?–
Me, but I had
Plans! Louise laughed,
Then leaned back and
Cast back in her
Mind….That summer
At the coast….
Boardwalk with those
Booths….Arcade…what
Year was that? When I saw
That Magic
Typewriter! One dime
In the slot–
Typed your future
Right before your
Eyes. Still in my
Drawer, the narrow strip:
“You were bornn to
ac complish great
tdeeds. Beware!
Theres a ris kin
Fall–
You will have a
trip across the
country before
long. Definitely  b
y Spring.” I
Must tell Riah….

Ruefully, though,
Louise shook her
Head. Lately it
Seemed the second
Half of every
Thought: “Tell Riah.”
Needling pain pricked
Deep between her eyes. Well,
Many springs passed
Since that oracle: “Before
Long….”
Before long I’ll
Own a whitewashed cottage,
Bo’ll teach Sunday
School, I’ll have
A store…a baby…
Be toast of
The town, and give smart
Parties–me,
Cute as a red wagon,
Not more worn and
Wrinkled every
Day. That’s how I’ll
Be, sure, before
Long. Before
Long….
Louise squinted
Out the splintered window.
Room began to
Blur. Shoot! I
Didn’t know what
Long was, in those days.

Siren?
That’s a siren
Sounding, since it’s
July Fourth?
Stupid, no!–it’s
In my head!
Louise pressed her
Fists against her
Temples. Stop!
Stop! But….
What of Riah?
No arcade
Machine predicted
Her. In this life,
Riah fit with
Nothing. She was
God’s mistake. God’s
Foolish error:
I found her, and
God’s not noticed
Yet. But…
God enforces
In a constant way–
In church every
Sunday was the same. So
You’d expect
A loser stays a loser,
Namely me–
God don’t like
Surprises, don’t like
Wildcards–and He
Knows how wild we’d
Run, if our deuce
Turned to ace–can’t
Let us win
One hand!
Mother Mary,
Don’t let God’s eye
Fall on Riah
Now. Because she’s
All that’s left. Don’t
Let him take her,
Too–He’s just
Forgot!
Louise gasped.
Her neck jerked, went
Rigid: whirring
Blades behind her
Eyes. They closed.

With an effort,
Louise raised her
Eyelids. Looking
Out the window–
Stains! Lights!
No, not in my
Mind! It’s real, that
Sky! Fourth of
July! Cartwheels
Flaming, drooling,
Tumbling in
The window, through
The night!

As she raised up,
Her head nearly
Riven–Louise
Laughed–that Riah!
She’s just one more
Pain, that Riah,
New pain: someone
There to lose!
Lousie sank down
To the bed. New
Pain: come in and
Join the others,
Welcome, we know
What to do!
We all live
Inside Louise–come
Join us! Drive her
Mad.

Her head she held
Clamped in her two
Hands. Inside and
Outside: lights, noise,
Clamor.
Neck arched.
Welcome! Come in!
We know what
To do.

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