56. April 15: Visit to the River

No more cold spells, Tom thought,
That’d be fine.
No thick clothes were left
For a chill spring.
Like a baby scarecrow, James
Flapped by, some
Patched get-up
Riah’d stitched for him.
Winds now would be warmer,
Thank the Lord.
But the sandstorms?
Thomas shook his head.
Two of them these past weeks,
Each called freak,
One-of-a-kind, boiled
Black from the horizon, bellowed
In, scored paint from clapboard,
Skin from cheekbones,
Green from leaves.

He parked by the “river.”
Ever been a river here?
Red cracked dirt-bed,
Lined with skimpy farms.
Absentee landowners, out of town,
Sent men to take rent,
Or half the crop.
Poor whites farmed it,
Cast-off tractors, mules.
Migrants drifted through,
Mexican and colored–pitch tents,
Move on–no work now,
No kith and kin.

Thomas had to learn
To build a windmill–
His was ruined–
Build one up from scratch,
The shaft and vanes.
Plodding by the bed
At a slow pace, he spied
Men on someone’s porch,
Heads down, faces
Brown or browned, hands
In pockets.
He walked up.
He had brought a dollar;
They refused.
“Just get a differential,”
Said a Mexican, who seemed like
He knew: “Out from some old car,
One of your friends’.”
Ain’t got friends, Tom thought,
That’d give me one.
“Bring it in. We got
Half a steel drum you can have
For beans and meal–
We’ll show you how it goes,
Mr. McKenna. Don’t work
Good, but gives more
Wet than dry.”
His dollar crackled in his palm.
He glanced off.
“Call me Tom.”

He was driving home
When all at once,
He thought back in rage–
What’d Riah done!
Getting dressed, he’d
Pulled a fresh shirt out–
Lifting it, sand
Spilt across his shoes!
“What’s this?” he’d yelled,
Shook it in her face.
Looking up and down,
She sized it up.
Then she met him coolly,
Eye to eye.
“Dirty shirt,” she’d answered,
Pert as pie.
Thomas hit the gas.
No sir, he thought:
She’ll find out
This isn’t over yet.

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