Straw hat’s busted
and the blue and red flag’s dragging on its pole.
The road’s as narrow as a plumb line
and the sides are baked brick hard.
Rusty gas pump only offers regular.
In the window, brown and speckled eggs,
soda bottles, a can of oil.
Unshaven Ed flops in his chair out front
Straw hat can’t keep back July,
cakes his brow a stinky yellow.
A car creeps by but doesn’t stop.
Maybe can’t read the price of gas.
Ed’s handwriting’s shaky
as his mortgage payments.
May’s quilting, the only thing
her fingers know to do.
Despite the heat, her handiwork
rolls up to her wrinkled chin, almost smothers her.
And here comes Vernon,
just who Ed don’t want to hear.
So Dewey’s got a new computer.
Tell that to the chamber of commerce.
Another car rolls by. And another.
Someone even waves.
Straw hat’s raised in answer, in anger,
then flopped down sideways on Ed’s head.
Go help your grandmother, Ed says.
Steam rises from the swamps,
raccoon pans the trash for food,
wood-stork chatters from a cypress branch.
Vernon creeps reluctantly indoors.
May stops her quilting for a kiss,
struggles to remember who exactly is this boy.
Along comes Temple to complain
about the weather and business and his wife.
Ed listens but his ear is cocked for cars the more.
He straightens his straw hat.
Brim holds by a thread.
How long you had that thing? asks Temple.
Forty years, says Ed. It brings me luck.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.
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