24. Sewing Club: February

Am I the only one?
Cross, she let slip her needle.
It jabbed her–Riah jumped
And sucked the blood.
Oh, you heard folks say,
“Times are hard” or “Money
Scarce as hen’s teeth”–
Mrs. Parr’s old saw–
“Going gets tough,
And the tough get going”–
Were they losing farms? Their house?
Their land?

Money. It’s a private thing,
She understood. As private
As between a man and wife.
You never asked about;
You mostly knew.
Assumed the others
Had what you had, more or less.
In the Sewing Circle,
Christmas-time,
Used to make new skirts,
Coats for the kids.
Last year, though–no
Gay clothes. Nothing new.
Patches and torn pants.
It was like the color,
Ribbons, Christmas reds
Drained from their hands
And laps. In December
They darned socks.

They sewed now in haste.
Lately, no one asked
For cake or coffee.
No one offered–
Waste of flour, eggs.
They canceled food breaks–
Said they’d much to do.
Mrs. Mack, the older ones,
Began to bring in pieces,
Almost shreds–rescued
From the rag pail,
Trying to put these
To rights. The others
Followed suit–rags,
Till rags ran out.

These here are the ones,
She thought, scanning them,
Who’d help me.
They’d take me in.
They’d give me food
For James. But what–
Here her breath stopped, and
Her thoughts–
If they’re bad off, too?
If it struck them all?
They seemed peaceful, mending,
But they all looked strange
These days. Cotton’d never
Dropped so low.
And it was dry.
But then it always was,
And rain was due.

Riah’d seen a picture
In the paper,
A line of men that went
Clear down the street,
At the county seat,
Waiting for soup.
Nowhere to go.
She tied off a knot.
Hope to God, she thought,
That I’m the poorest woman
In this room.

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