184. Return

Evening sun had
Lowered to burnt orange,
Blinding all their
Windows with its
Blaze. She drove
To the yard.
Slammed the truck-door:
Rang against
The sky. Riah
Braced herself. She
Briskly strode inside.

Sewing box gaped
Open on her chair.
Pegs that held her
Empty spools were bare.
Riah traced them:
Scattered on the floor.
Sitting cross-legged
In the clutter’s midst,
Bent above some
Task: Thomas and James.
They glanced up,
Absorbed, and said
Hello.
James’ thrilled face:
“Building tractors,
Mama!”

So she saw.
Tractors out of
Spools, Tom poking
Rubberbands through
All their holes, each
Anchored by one
Matchstick in a groove.
Step by step, Tom
Instructing:
James squeezed chips of
Soap beneath each stick.
“These will act like
Washers,” Tom explained.
James would wind and
Wind the rubberband–
“Now! Let go!”–
Band turned anchor,
Anchor turned the spool.
Tractor trundled
Off across the floor.

“Watch,
Son!”–Tom had some
Tiny nails. At an angle
Precise, close, he
Showed James how to
Pound the spool’s rim
With them: cleated
Wheels.
“Ma, watch this!”
Knives lay on
The floor. James wound
The tractor.
With new tread, it
Clambered over
One knife, then climbed
Two: the best trick
James had ever
Seen. He wound that
Toy, again, again.

Wherever Riah
Looked, the floor was
Spread with tractors:
Plain ones with no
Tread, and ones with
Notched rims for
The tougher grip,
Tractors made of
Two spools glued as
One–these would lumber
Faster, but not
Climb. And more!
Toy tops carved from
Spools, with grooves for
Thread to wrap,
Whittled pencils, fitted
Through spool-holes,
Points to turn on
Sharpened at the end.

James was laughing
At one tractor’s antics.
He clapped hands like
He were only three.
Her eyes rested
First on James, then
Thomas,
Carving spools, his
Bony fingers
Sure. She set
Down her keys.
Riah glided
Over to the stove.

What had happened
In their home that
Day, Riah was
Not to know.
Didn’t ask.
Thomas didn’t
Say.

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