88. Walking

A picture: playing
In the water
Of the swimming pool,
“President
Relaxes at Warm Springs.”
Thomas had been walking
Through the field. Now,
Took a break.
On the ground he
Sat and read the paper.
Where he sat, a couple
Cotton sprouts flared
From the dust. Lord,
Plant them on
Cardboard, and some would
Sprout! It meant
Nothing. Soon
They’d start to
Droop, and pine for
Rain.

Mister Franklin Roosevelt.
Yes we’ll gladly
Take your money,
Sir, Tom thought–
Rental payments for
The useless acres,
Parity, Triple A,
Like the guy says,
“All them other A’s–”
But why was it
Right? It wasn’t.
Why was it all
Right?

At the Red and
White, Old Mr. Bitts–
He’d told Tom of
Seeing Roosevelt,
Seeing him in
Person, in the flesh,
Some parade in Kansas.
“Cigarette-thing
Stuck up from his
Mouth,” Bitts said.
“Takes it out to
Wave. He uses that
Since he’s afeard of
Fire. Cripples are.
Like my buddies
In their V.A. beds….
Yessir–there he
Was, as big as
Day.”

Bitts lit his pipe,
Cupped in stiffened
Fingers. “People, they was
Screaming, something loud!
‘Here he comes!’ ‘I
See!’ Man
Next to me was
Yelling: ‘Him! He
Saved my home!’,
Shoving past me
Just to touch his car,
Others crying, stretching
For his hand, ‘Gave
Me a job!’
‘Got food for my
Boy!'” Bitts,
Ruminating, blew out
Curls of smoke.

“You know, Tom–I
Seen Wilson in Paris.
They was cheering
Him too, just the same.
That man’s
Face–seen preachers
At the pulpit?–
Kind of high and
Grim. But this
Roosevelt! Why,
He just laughed!”
Bitts blinked.
“Laughed it off.
Made some speech there,
Smiled: You fellows
Need a hand, that’s
All, you farmers–
He said, we can’t
Let you go to
Waste!
Talked like that.”
Bitts had lapsed back
Into silence then.

Tom stared down.
The photo: a gay,
Splashing Roosevelt.
But it wasn’t
True–they were not
Needed.
That’s the lesson,
He thought, I must learn.
The world rushed on
Nicely: thanks, so long.
All the foreclosed
Farms had made
No dent.
Tom gazed at his
Land, so barren, brown.
Country had no
Cotton shortage, though.
Roosevelt did
Not get the big
Picture.
We can’t pay our
Way. Can’t earn our
Keep. So
We are useless.
He should let us
Fall.

Only when Tom
Looked another way,
How hard farmers
Worked here, what they knew–
Losing that seemed
Waste. But
That’s too bad:
Not the world’s
Concern, not politics.
Roosevelt, his
Talk of a “new deal”–
Everybody
Working, eating–
No one left
Behind–but he won’t
Call it “dole”–
I don’t see it,
Tom thought. It don’t
Figure.

Tom held
Up the paper:
Wonder how he
Gets out from that
Pool?

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