212. Riah Reflects

No grass.

Louise had asked,
What do you miss?
And it had come to her:
The green.
Instead of seasons, crops,
The sprouting and the chopping back,
They had, these days,
The same old scene–
Shouldering the house
The grassless dunes
That lapped the fields,
Revealed and bare.
Blown to hardpan, blown
To scrabbling dust.
She held her arms. Sweat
Gummed between her fingers.
Naked: nothing there
To grow.

Nothing to protect her
From the sight, the bone-bare,
Bone-dead land.
Today it pressed against her,
Huge and blank,
She could not ignore it,
Any more, despite
Distraction of Louise’s
Speculations, and her chatter, darting
As a hummingbird:
What made Riah sicker,
Meal, or beans?–
What was she daydreaming?–
What meat would she dream of,
Steak, or ham?
Which felt worse–this heat,
Or wind in spring?–
Guess how many dead cows
Had been counted so far,
North of town?

I don’t know, Louise.
Riah sighed. I can hear her
Down in Hades: Riah,
Say, which devil poked at you
Today?–Hey Riah, watch out
For that short one yonder,
Stubby-horned one–heard it
Through the grapevine that his
Gang and him, their pitchforks
Just been honed! Which
Bothers you the most,
Hot coals, or brimstone?
I’ll take brimstone, any
Day. See that demon there,
What a Dumb Dora! Flying
Upside down.

She blushed. A sin,
For sure, to joke of Hell.
Tom was gone. Her
Thoughts turned to the skyline.
He’s digging out the fenceposts,
One by one,
That had been buried–
Would be buried, too.

The rain follows the plow.
Those posts were their mark,
Their sign.
Now swallowed up.
And only they were left
To walk the borders, and to
Reckon what was theirs.
Riah, on the porch,
Surveyed the farm.
It sat unmoved,
A shifting brown.
It pressed against her, though.
She made a fist.
Salt water trickled down.

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