311. Talk To Mama

They sat, facing, on the floor.
A storm was whistling,
And the lamp was lit.

Etched in concentration,
Her slight frown:
Precise attention.
Riah sliced strips
From the empty can,
Her hand firm, the tool
Just as her hand.

She spread out the pieces
Petal-like.
With the can, a screw,
Tools, a stick, they were
Making James a windmill, for
Out back where he’d
Built a tiny farm,
A house and barn.

Giving her the twig,
James scanned her face.
Riah was at work,
Absorbed, at peace.
James decided then:
I’ll ask now.
Her brown eyes were
Thoughtful–pretty,
Too, James noted
With some pride.

“Ma–”
She nodded.
“You know, Barker,
Him and me, we play.”
Riah nodded.
“Well, the other day,
He’s talking, but–
I couldn’t barely listen.
Funny, I was trying,
But I couldn’t.
Like looking at the sun.
My ears just closed.”

“What was Barker saying?” Steady,
She twirled in a screw,
Tilted, got the angle right
For tin to wood.
“Food.
Lord–gosh, I mean–it’s
All he ever says.
Heard some rumor, dried
Potatoes come in
To the Relief Office.
But I couldn’t….”

She was bending down
The metal tips, so
The mill-blades, sharp and shining,
Would not cut:
Her face mild, intent.
James was certain
He’d not puzzle her.
She’d solve his confusion
With a word.

Twisting in the screw,
Bent to her chore,
Riah gave her answer.
“Try harder.”
Her thin wrist flicked
In a final turn.

James could only stare.
Perplexed: “That’s all?”
Riah cleaned her hands,
Gathering her tools,
Wiping dirt, to put them
In their box.

She passed him the windmill:
It was perfect.

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