35. Leaving

Tom sat at the table,
With Willow Smith, who’d come by
In his car. His windmill, like
Tom’s, collapsed in the storm.
Willow coughed,
Began to pack his pipe–
“Well, Tom.” But Willow’s
Skinny hands could not be
Still; and they shook on him
Now. The dark tobacco
Fluttered to the floor.

“I guess I’m set to go.
The wife and kids is packing up.
Not much.” Willow laughed,
“Got blowed away.”
“Going west, then?”
“California.” Willow knocked his
Pipe; it left a mess.
Tom said, “Never mind.”
“You know, Tom, I saw that
Poster. They’re hurting for
Good men there,
Who ain’t afraid of work.
And I’m not.
You know that’s so.”
Tom folded up his paper.
“Riah says, them that
Writes those posters,
Butter won’t melt in their mouths.”

Willow put a match
To his old pipe, and drew
Long puffs. His lips smacked.
He choked a wheezing cough:
“We’ll be pickers, yes, it’s true.
Won’t be planting.
Picking for another man.”
He bit the stem.
It wobbled in his teeth.

“But there’s a crop, at least,
Is that it, Will?” Tom smiled,
Eyes alert.
“By God, you’re right, boy!”–
He waved his arm–
“There’s things
Men got to do!”
In the faded light
His face seemed yellowed.
“Wellsir, Tom,
I’m off! I’ll send word back.
Tell the wife I said goodbye.”
The two shook hands.

Riah came home
Later in the day.
“You missed Willow,” said Tom.
She held her tongue.
Tom said, “Just as well.”
“I heard,” she answered–
“Gone to California.
To pan gold.”
Her voice grated harsh
In her own ears.
She took the broom
And swept without complaint.

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