She sits on her narrow porch puffing on a cigarette
staring without expression at her feet.
Three ex-husbands and two school-age children;
another tight-fisted night pulling restless sleep.
She rises slowly, goes inside to urge her new boyfriend,
encouraging him to go, to leave and to go look for work.
She offers to make him a peanut butter sandwich
to take with him. He mumbles “I ain’t goin out today,
Two well-dressed children without child support;
no extra pennies to offset the cost of living…
staring without expression at her feet hands on her lap,
clutching between her fingers, an unlit cigarette.
Standing, looking over both shoulders,
she reaches for the ceiling to a loose board above her chair.
Secret money for lunches, school clothes, a carton of cigarettes,
and a pair of new sneakers for work.
Smiling, for the first-time today,
she tucks folding money in her waistband.
She sits down and lights her torch
vaporizing an otherwise, bad day.
Late afternoon, it’s Monday, Betty’s day off.
Puffing on a cigarette watching her oldest child,
waiting at the end of the driveway;
watching without discreet, into every passing car.
Just started high school this year,
meeting new friends on main street-
she’s hoping to find a ride.
Betty sits there smoking, smoke curling,
exhale billowing between her and her thoughts;
the only things close to her now
seemed to be slipping away too fast.
Driving in a well-marked car with broad gold letters,
and a big clipboard on the dash, full of papers neatly stacked,
the County sheriff pulled in with a soft crawling gravel stop.
The neighbors watched his walk in slow mo’
crossing the few feet to Betty sitting on the porch;
Asking her for identification, even though he knows her name.
A familiar figure, all thanking God, he’s not stopping at their house.
She drops her cigarette at her feet into an empty soup can,
rises without surprise.
Conversation is quickly limited to responses of yes after yes, after “yes sir.”
They exchange confirmation and signatures;
eviction notice served.
Another friggin’ mess.
Going inside, she picks up the free local paper;
having been folded with precision,
with some anticipation, to rentals and the classified
then goes back to her perch on the porch.
Her child, Angelica, must have gotten a ride.
Looking up at the sky reading the clouds,
reading the rentals and what’s included in the price
her attention turned to the opening screen door.
who had run through the back door,
and hid up in her room when the sheriff arrived,
was bringing out a kitchen chair to join her.
Forgetting main street for now.
Ear to ear smile, patting the hand of her oldest child,
Betty put the paper down, looked up the street,
lit another cigarette, slowly exhaling, quietly whispered,
“everything is gonna be all right.”
Who are we to judge?
“Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.” Henry Miller