203. Tom’s Return

“We’re refinanced.”

He was standing in the doorway.
She was never to forget it:
Thomas standing there,
His hat held in his hands,
Ragged, sun-bleached clothes a-flutter
Like he’d floated down to earth,
Buoyed by the breeze.
He had a beggar’s slump
About his shoulders,
But his face–to her, angelic,
Stripped and stunned:
“Roosevelt.”

“What?
Come and sit.”
He’s raving?
“No–” he dropped into a chair,
Waved her away. “One of his–
Laws has done it,
What you call it? Some
Program, with some name–
Said they had to have a meeting.
You know where I been,
The county seat–
Me, that bank man,
And a Roosevelt man.
Other farmers there,
They filled the building,
For their meetings.”
Riah nodded, pressing, silent,
Yes, go on,
Go on: gnawing at her lip.

“I waited out my turn.
They call me in.
They have a stack of papers,
Oh, yea-high. They says,
This is Arbitration.
We talk numbers–
Payments, rental checks–”
Oh yes, she knew those numbers,
Upside-down.

“Then they talk new numbers.
Lower payments, longer deadlines….
I says, fine, sir–
When that note comes due,
We’ll be here.
We ain’t going nowhere!
Gave us good terms, Riah,
For awhile, depending
On the next few years
We might can pay, for real.
The man says, ‘Sign.'”

We can pay.
She sat back in the chair.
Just fancy that.
No more limping by
On partial payments. No more
Bending rules in hopes
They’d not collapse,
And us fall through–
She wanted to be
Safe, inside the law!
To ask no favors,
Safe, and hiding nothing–
No, not praying for a break, nor
Scraping barrels, cutting
Corners, crossing fingers.
A moment’s sureness
In the world, at home,
A place to stay:
We can pay.

“Roosevelt man, he
Keeps on looking at me.
Then he rubs his forehead,
Kind of tired, and says:
You’re in trouble, still,
You know that–
I says yes.
You’re in trouble, says,
Farm prices what they are,
And drought still bad–
Relief, they’ll pare it down–
This here’s a second chance,
Helps out a mite.
Staves it off,
Makes it better.
But you know, you’re
Still in trouble–
Then I bust out laughing!
Yes, I says,
I know.”

Bible tells us
Not to build on shifting sand,
Thought Riah, taking
Stock. But how to
Build on shifting
Sand, that’s what we’re
Learning. And today it
Feels like solid rock.

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