67. Back Home

A body, it could hope,
She’d concluded, only for
So much. Louise
Shrugged. I used up my luck
With this new hairdo
And Bo’s not being home
To catch me so. Even
Souses know solution
Don’t come free. Thank God for
Gin or dominos, whatever’s
Kept him out–poker,
More than like. Well,
Home sweet home–
She kicked aside a shirt.

She found some bread.
She tore the loaf for supper,
Sat down, took a bite,
Commenced to sing.
          I don’t like to see girls a-wearing silk dresses,
          And men going ’round in many distresses,
          They ought to be home a-washing their dishes
          And patching the holes in their husband’s old britches.

Chewing, she fussed with her hair–
Did the wave take?
No one to notice–
Wait till I see town–
New permanent on me
Will rot their socks.

No calendars in sight here.
Just newspaper,
Tacked to the dark walls.
Light faded with the evening.
Erect before the mirror,
Louise pulled her collar,
Touched the button
To undo her dress.
She’d sleep in her slip.
Only the rich had nightclothes.
More and more, lean times,
What cloth you had
Must not be hid by sheets,
But worn outside.
It pleased her greatly,
Picturing the county poor, and
Buck-naked in bed.

Louise, too, owned a clock.
It was her mother’s:
Sloping maple neck
Up on the dresser,
Measured tick,
Black ornate script numbers,
Yellow face.

She wound it slowly.
Once inside the house,
She banned certain thoughts
For peace of mind:
Of food.
Of her sister.
Now, new thought, McKenna.
And of sagging, getting old.
Louise unbuttoned herself
To her belt, with her left
Hand, right hand down.
She dragged her dress tiredly
From her shoulders.
It caught, rumpled,
Draped on either arm.
A plain harsh brassiere.
Three sizes small,
Bit toothlike in flesh.
Her sharp glance
Surrendered to a stare.
Cheap binding slip–
She seemed to erupt–
White freckled breasts,
White arms, face suffusing–
Bare flush sketched her cheeks,
Outlined her eyes.
Straight she faced herself
As her face filled,
As if that sole sound,
The steady tock,
Were rain-drops
Into a welling pail.
Her mouth wavered,
The faint creases strained.
Tight she held herself,
Eyes on green eyes.
Maddened in the silence,
She spoke, mocking:
“What a waste.”

          You may call me kwee,
          You may call me kwy,
          I often say things that’s strange to the eye,
          But if you don’t like it, it’s nothing to me,
          I’m just saying things that I don’t like to see.
She would sing
Until she heard his tires,
And then hush,
And try to look asleep.
Fried toast she’d have brought
Into her bed; coffee,
And some movie magazines.

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