99. A Bad Day

“The whore, the whore!”
Piping high boy’s
Voice: blue eyes wide,
He’d snatched up his
Marbles, run
Away. He’d seen
Louise swinging
Round the schoolyard corner,
Jotting sales with
Make-up case in tow.
Wish this town could
See a whore, she’d thought–
Natchez. New Orleans. A real
Madam. Scare their pants.

For Louise, this
Day had not been good.
She had ended
Here at Riah’s table,
Tired eyes restless,
Watching Riah’s dress,
A gray print all
Wavy, Riah,
Baking something–
Louise could not
Tell. Riah’s
Words got jumbled
In her ears.
Louise, counting
Tangee, Revlon,
Brushes, stale perfumes–
Rouge pots, smudged, and
Gloss pots seemed to
Float before her eyes–Louise
Frowned. Didn’t
Add up: had she
Lost some? Left them home?
Riah, chatterbox, now saying,
All roads lead to
Louise got for facials–
Ladies! All Roads
Lead To Roma Cream!

Louise thought:
Can’t make heads nor
Tails of what she says,
There she moves her
Mouth, but I don’t
Hear. But
Other days with
Riah, things came clear:
They could finish
One another’s thoughts,
Quick and laughing–
Coffee or some
Gossip pleased so much….
But these past
Enjoyments seemed remote,
Faded photos
Tacked up to some wall.
Bo, the farm, this
Place–last year,
Next year–
Louise thought, the same.
Always my wheels
Spinning. Spinning,
Stuck. Oh hell, don’t

Riah, busy
Chatting about food–she’d
Traded something,
Gotten one day’s meat–at
Last she heard
The silence from
Louise. She
Asked Louise a question.
No reply.
Then Riah too fell
Quiet, pounding dough,
Loaf she should have
Baked before, but
Waited: Louise
Loved the smell.
The slant sun bore
Hateful down and
Down. Nothing
Said. Flour in
Sweaty clouds,
Whitened gutters
All along her arms.

Riah kneaded,
Pounded at the bread.

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