241. Sunday Morning

She was up before the birds,
Before the sun.
When Tom awoke
He found her in the kitchen,
Seated in a chair,
Erect against its slats,
And fully dressed.
She wore her best. The dawn,
Thin as weak coffee, washed
Across her ironed white collar.
She sat beside the window,
Hat in hand.

He rubbed his face.
Church: he would have to
Shave. Would she visit
Where the churching trial was set?
No trial, he thought–
The jury’s out and in.
Trial by fire, let
The careless one get
Burned. Let Riah
Learn her lesson.
Picture’s worth a thousand
Words. Well, if you break
The rules, you lose the game.
It’s not too much to ask:
Don’t cheat on your
Husband, ever.

“I hear James now. He could
Use some breakfast”–Tom
Turned to get his razor.
Riah stirred.
Her voice came floating,
From another place,
A ghost’s pale whisper:
“There ain’t nothing.”
“What’s that?”
She shook her head.
“The bread there is,
I’m saving for tomorrow,
So he’ll stay awake in school.
The order from Miss Flynn,
It should come Tuesday. We
Ate breakfast for supper,
Way last night.”
To Tom’s tired eyes, she
Almost seemed to smile.
To find it funny.
“Well, I’ll be damned!” He glared
And left the room.

Quiet settled like a mantle;
She gazed down.
The black iron stove
Caught bluish glints of day.
The clock seemed louder,
Coarser, in the sunrise,
And it chattered on her nerves.
She pressed her temples,
As it ticked and hopped,
High on its shelf.
Since midnight
She had gotten up each hour
Just to wind it….
Put its face to hers….
To check the time.

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