242. Going To Church

The sky was foul with grit.
It whipped her eyes, and cast
A brown-orange pall upon
The day. Tom parked the car.
Here was Louise’s church:
Riah’d only seen the yard,
At the bazaar. Now
Folks pushed through the foyer.
Wordless, Tom and Riah
Swept in with the tide. He had
No words why he’d go
With her on this ride.

Inside, it was not quiet.
Everyone must whisper, murmur
To the person next–
The room was crowded, hot. Riah’s
Arm rubbed Walt King’s coat–
She felt the grassburrs.
The talcum on Jeanette’s neck,
She could see, the pew
Before her; in the pew
Behind, thick violet-scent perfume.
She fancied she could smell
On someone’s breath, they had
Salt pork for breakfast.

Back off!
Back away! She gripped her arms.
Some had done chores,
On Sunday: warm, stale sweat.
She wished she’d stayed
Outside–the breath
Of those around her, licking
At her neck–and, crawling?–
Lice? A droplet, warm,
Rolled down her arm.

If only she could break out!
She’d run home,
Straight to the fields. Never
Come back. She blanched–
These smells!–These
Clothes, she’d burn them,
She’d–
Her eye stopped dead.

Empty.
That front pew.
The row was near-deserted.
There nobody leaned,
Or stood. Or sat.
Except for one.
The aisle seat, far right:
A large blue hat.
Red hair.

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