294. Invitation

Panting, Riah caught her breath
In spasms, jerks, tried
To grip her throat–
Louise’s arm
Waved Tom to keep his seat.

Louise grasped Riah’s
Shoulders. “Where is
Miss Flynn?
Where is she?”
Tom stared, startled.
Louise shouted: “Passed her
Lousy dog-shit car
Way down the road, on my way
Here! Lord knows, I
Hate her too, her
Cold-hearted ways, damn
Questions!
But–yes, there she went–
Know why?
To see, to check
Her people! Trying
To get out to all them
Blown-down shacks,
To all them tenants
Knocked flat on their ass,
And all their busted
Model-T’s and trucks
Now twice as busted,
Ruined, dead, their
Mouse-holed, weevil-rotten
Sacks of flour, scattered
To the seven winds;
And more, their kids–
That gave up on school,
Because, hell, what’s
The use, and give up
Doctors, since Dad
Can’t buy what Doc says,
And give up that
Folks with two bits might give
Time of day–
These kids, she’s wondering,
What’s become of them?
Been blown to Kingdom Come?
Or just closer?
And she’s thinking–
Yes, I’ve worked with her!–
She’s calculating,
Face coal-black with storm,
And lost to boot,
How she can make the county
Send more beans–

“And you!”
Here Riah’s shallow breaths
Tore loudly, like a beast
That could not rise–
“It’s always been, with you,
Your house, your boy,
Your house, your boy!
All the others,
Why, you say,
To hell with them!
No!
Think yours the only
Son, the only kid?
The only life?
I don’t know why,
It drives me wild–
You, locked inside yourself–
Think you’re the only one,
And so give up,
Pack your marbles,
And you die–”

Riah’s pupils widened,
Eyes, black wells.

Louise crouched down:
To Riah’s face, her face
Could get no nearer:
“Hey! Join
The human race.
You’re too far inside.
You always been.
I gone as far, with you,
As I can go.
I give up now.

“Your house is burning.
Stay in, or
Walk out.”

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