61. April 30

Ought to prepare the soil.
Can’t prepare it.
Ought to buy seed.
Can’t buy it.
Ought to plant.
Can’t plant.

Tom laughed–almost a shout–
Lying on the porch,
Face to the sky,
Blue so pale, it
Strained his squinting eyes.
The cotton planted early
Never showed.
The land? Wasn’t holding, no.
It had blowed, and blowed,
And sifted, ground itself–
Might as well plant Galveston,
Drill seed in white
Corpus Christi sands.

Tom slapped a fly.
There’d been that first storm,
Caught them surprised.
Then the others,
Recent one, five days….
Built me a new windmill.
Doesn’t matter.
Barely raises drinking-water.
That contraption, made with
Help from migrants,
Every fool in town’s heard tell.
That windmill:
He gazed over at its shadow.
Riah’d been so pleased.

She ain’t a help, Tom thought,
And rubbed his sleeve.
Oh farming, yes, and managing,
But not in women’s ways–
He fumbled for the words–
To make his home his castle,
Things okay. Patty,
She makes Bud feel like
A king. He lights his
Cigar, she’s got the tray.
And Opal’s husband Ed,
What he says, goes.
Me, I got a single son,
Ought to have four by now–
People laugh. “Don’t put
All your eggs here,” Bud says,
Smiling, with his right hand
On my boy.

Tom swatted.
Fitful flies
Were welcome signs of breeze.
They’d hunker down
In dead heat, or a storm.
Club I belong to,
What I am, Tom thought,
I’m a Almost.
Almost good enough.
That’s how it’s been.
That’s been the A to Z.
Good enough to own a farm,
But not to keep it.
Good enough to pick a crop,
But not to profit.
Good enough for raggy shirts,
Empty plates, and tractor
On last legs. Good enough
So James is skinny–
That’s how good.
I had my chance.
Tom shrugged–
In this country,
Best will rise.
John Rockefeller started,
Shining shoes. Now he
Strolls the streets,
Hands poor kids dimes.

Tom sat up,
Not bothering to stand.
Why check the soil again?
Why yank the weeds?
Once I was nearly
Good enough, but
Now I’m sliding farther, far,
From good.
Won’t check my fields today.
I’m one who won’t check fields.

Thomas settled in,
Narrow back against the wall.
I won’t.

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