196. Sewing Circle: Patty’s Absence

“Lawsy!” said Jeanette.
“She packed most all the stuff
Was in her closet.
Packed four pair of shoes.
Packed her new silk hose, to wear them
To the something session.
I declare now.” Jeanette
Shook her head.

Riah brooded.
Surely, what clothes packed
Was no one’s business.
Above all, she hated secrets
To be told.
It made her throat feel choked:
“Well, Jeanette. She didn’t
Know what she might need,
At that GFWC”–had she
Got the letters right?
“Why, Riah! Not like you
To voice your mind–
That’s quite a speech.”
Jeanette smiled.
“I notice, though,
You don’t seem to know nothing
‘Bout her club.”
That was rude, but Riah saw
Jeanette spoke freely;
No one frowned.
Riah ripped a knee-patch out.

Someone shook a shirt,
Which flapped a puff of dust–
Yes, it had gotten in.
Even with today’s storm, not
So bad, the wind hooing, not
Screaming, round the house–
It got in, still, tiny
Pale sand-crystals. In
The patch’s denim weave,
Those impossibly small spaces,
Nestled clinging to the threads–
It appeared. If
Riah brought her knitting, and
The minutes passed, it
Welled along the purl. And
Within the criss-cross ridges
On her forearm, the loose
Skin of age she had
Begun to see, where
Dust collected, like
That shored up in furrows
In the fields.

Some folks had swallowed
Spoons of oils and ointments
To flush the grittiness
From their insides.
They all had it in their lungs;
They coughed it up.
Nothing, Riah thought,
Was tight enough,
Was closed enough,
To keep it out.
She looked around.
Each woman, in each chair,
Sat robed in dust
She’d carry with her when
She rose.
They were, she was,
Porous. Like their houses
That seemed sound before each storm.
Somehow, through the cracks–
Between the densest warp and woof–
It would get in.

The wind bumped at the door.
For a moment, weary
Sewing on their laps,
They felt a hatred flare:
Towards themselves,
For keeping dirty houses;
Patty, for silk hose;
Husbands, for no money;
Each other’s faces, that
Showed them their own, on this
Raw ugly blowing day;
And quietly–for
They chose not to say–
Towards Riah; for Louise.
Louise was bad.

The wind breezed by their cheeks:
Its acrid smell.
They raised their heads up,
Sniffing at the scent.

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