90. In Town

Oh, they’d
Be polite about it,
But they would
Avoid a cropper woman–
Cropper being
Lowest of the tenants.
Sharecroppers owned
Nothing. Not
Land nor tractors,
Not their mules nor
Seed. Just
Hands and labor.
Right now, in
The  store, the clerk said,
“Yes?” No “ma’am”
Need be added.
She stepped up:
“Got a grocery order.”

Her eyes tracked her
Son, who roamed the store.
He wants sugarbabies.
Well. We’ll see.
Kids outside,
Not so much as
Glanced when he’d
Walked up. He’d
Kept to himself, stood
Wary by. Waiting
To be asked.
How long in schools,
Playgrounds, did he wait?
“Barker” they all
Called him–
Stupid name–not
Theodore, she’d picked.
Named for Grampa:
She had been
His pet.

Here he came now,
Her boy, strolling
By. She sighed: her
Son.
By rights, seems she
Could at least have
Named him,
Give him only
That if not much else.
But no.
“Barker,” it was
Now–from teachers, too.

          SWEETS?
She signed back: NO,
NOT TODAY.
But she grabbed some
Grape-balls–only
When he’d turned:
Don’t teach him
To steal. But–
“Pardon, dear–”
That Jeanette Gerard
Came brushing by her.
Dear?
I’m a damn sight
Older than you are.
Don’t you use that
Christian tone with me.

Clerk: “Here it is.”
Cornmeal, milk, dried beans.
“Thank you.” She smiled
Dutifully.
He don’t say “Come
Back.” None of them do.
Well, they wish I wouldn’t.
My, but ain’t I
Peevish? Slap at
Every fly-bite,
Get what I deserve:
A lousy time.
Let it pass–don’t
Take it personal.

Theodore stood
At the plate glass window.
Gazing out.
In the street, kids
Yelling. She
Caught his eye:
LET’S GO.

          SO SOON?
          ALL RIGHT.

YOU WAIT YOU. WE GO
HOME. I GOT
SURPRISE.

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