98. Mid-day

Bulb attached to
Gray wood: old
Thermometer,
Glass throat brimming
Red, nailed to
The store. Noon–
No street noise.
No one stepping
Out. The town shut down.
In behind their
Counters stood shopkeepers,
Lights off, fanning slow.
They leaned out of
Doorways, checked for breeze.
Sun would prick their
Arms: they’d duck inside.
Squat red Coke
Machine had been drunk
Dry. Tap ran with
Rust. Those who
Had no faucet
Kept a water pail,
Warm as tepid
Coffee. The silt
Swirled. Bottled
Water: bottled
Gold. None could buy.

One day
Was too much.
But they’d had four
In a row, now five,
Each sure to be
Last. It had to
Stop: one hundred
Fahrenheit. It
Did not drop.
In the morning they
Awoke disbelieving.
Still, they thought,
Dirt storms of last
Spring–those
Had gone on past
Folks’ remembering,
Month on month,
Till the summer
Came. No rain. But
Surely, April.
Surely, May.
That had gone on,
Too, till they said
Surely, June. But
June was now.
“July sure,” their
Farmer’s confidence, hollow
In their ears,
Echoing what
Could not be but
Was.

In the street, pressed
To a step, old
Hound-dog slept.
Hind legs stretching,
Twitching as he dreamed.
Ears were flopped back,
Soft black muzzle,
Dry. Shallow
Panting–belly
Puffed out breath.
In his shadow,
Fossils of
The heat: flies, petrified.

“Hey!
Tunney!” Voice called,
“Tunney! Hey!”–
Annoyed to be
Outside. “Bone!
Come and get it!”
The flies were
Unmoved.
Tunney opened
And then closed
One eye.

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