281. Subjects

“Let’s see”:
Louise settled back.
Outside the porch was
Straining. Roofboards
Whined. Louise touched Riah’s
Mouth, to gauge her breath.

“Let’s see–
What are my subjects?” Louise
Cast about her, in
The stony dark.
“There’s lots. At home
I tell the walls–declaim on
Every topic. Chinch bugs
Rear up clapping….

“Well, let’s see.
Religion is one subject.
I’ll tell
How I figure God: that
He’s not tender-hearted.
Worse: not practical.
No. He might make
A decent doctor.
Not a nurse.”
Louise sat, compact,
Chin on knees.

“First because,
That stuff on tears.
All in the Bible. When they
Say that God will love you,
God will wipe your tears away–
Over and over, God says
He’ll be wiping tears.
Well. Any woman–mother–knows
That tears dry fast.
They’re clean. They’re quick.
They’re gone:
Tears are no problem.
So God’s set up Heaven,
Wiping tears; but
He should see, the need’s
For wiping noses.
That’s the rub”–Louise smiled.
“All that pouring muck,
The more you cry,
The more it runs, and then it
Smears across your face–
Just look at kids–dirt
Gets mixed in–they got
Brown patches on their cheeks,
Mash it with hands, strings
Loop their hair, and then
You’re wet and gooey,
Handkerchief is soaked,
You can’t get clean:
You need some help.”
Louise considered, shrugged.
“When you’re sick and old,
The same: it’s not
Who wipes your tears away–
A pretty scene!–It’s who will
Lift you off the pot, or
Change the dressing when it
Drips, or sponge you off.
When things go wrong,
It’s not the teardrops,
But the mess.
Not handmaidens:
But God don’t see.”

She slipped a fresh towel under Riah.
“And another thing:
That Jesus running off!
You know the story,
He’s a boy, ‘growing
To manhood’–shoot!–
He runs off at
The county fair, and here’s
Poor Mary, Joseph,
Tearing out their hair
And shoving through the crowds,
Wild to find their son.
Then–they spot him. There he’s
Sitting with the doctors,
Giving answers, showing off!
Mary says, we sought thee
Sorrowing; that’s what she says.
And Jesus says: ‘So what?
I’m on my Father’s business.’
Well, I never!
What a cross he was to her,
A brat!”

A crash–
Branch on the steps.
That story with the women–
One of them, at his
Feet, just lapping up
His every word, all
Goo-goo eyes. Other one,
Stuck in the kitchen,
Jesus scolds!
Tells her: ‘Come on out!’
Well, shoot.”
Louise spat dirt.
“A pretty ruse.
You think that Christ
Don’t want his sandwich,
Want his coffee? Yes, he
Wants them, sure enough.
Wants her to come out,
And coffee, too!
He’ll be up grousing
When the pot runs low!
He’s eager?
Let him chat there
By the stove!”

Riah coughed.
Louise raised both
Her shoulders.
“Long night.
Damn, if I’m not
Sleepy. I know what you’re
Thinking, too: I’ve
Left stuff out.
I’m partial.
Well, I’ll give him this:
When he’s nailed up,
He did tell someone there
To help his Ma.
So give him credit.
He can learn.”

Louise wiped off Riah’s chin.
“Now am I fair?”

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