79. Food Dreams

          Use it up,
          Wear it out,
          Make it do, or
          Do without.

Tractor engine:
Riah leaned
Inside. Dust rose
In her eyes.
That same dust was
Killing their machines
From deep within–grit
Seized whirring belts,
Choking every
Motion, scarring gears.
In the shed,
Tom had told her,
“I am getting
Tired of dusting
Dirt.” So he now
Ignored the mess
Instead. But the tractor
Had been Riah’s pet.
So she groomed it,
Grease-rag and a wrench.

Use it up,
Wear it out….
At long last
The garden was now
Gone. Hers, last to
Go. Just as
Well, she thought.
Friends looked at her
Funny that she had her
Squash and beans free, while
They paid.
What drought had not
Parched, the rabbits
Ate. She’d caught one
Nibbling cabbage leaves. She’d
Stood not four freet
From him with the gun–
Used to, pests would
Run. But
This one had just
Eyed her with no
Flinch. It
Sat and gobbled.
Never tried to
Budge. When a creature
Got that hungry….
Well, she’d shoot him
Next time, surely would.

Lately her head
Fairly reeled with hunger.
Midweek, grocery money
Would run out. There were
Hours when she
Floated, felt no
Legs. Her tongue
Tasted air.
Thick roast cuts and
Buttered vegetables,
Ghosts before her
Face, moist blurry
Visions, of sweet corn
And sugared ham.
Check the sun:
Half a day till
Lunch.

To go out so
Hungry–so
Embarrassing,
As if walking into town
All bare. Friends
Saw too much–
Glaze across your
Eyes–caught you
Glancing at ripe
Fruit inside
The store. Talk of
Recipes had dwindled, now
Too strained.

Did Tom feel it?
Riah could smell
Food that wasn’t there.
Worse–did James?
He got most:
Food from both their
Plates as they ate
Less.

Sometimes in her
Sleepwalk through the day,
She would stand
Stock still,
One thought stabbing
Through her weary haze:
James, hungry.
Her heart stopped.
Then she’d move on,
Call him, find him,
Sit down with him
And comb out his hair.

If, as on this
Day, he was not there,
She trudged out and
Scoured the tractor clean.
Pried its hood up.
Wiped the grimy
Oil, grain by
Grain.

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