She tries to please her husband
agreeing with everything he says.
Yesterday he told her people
create their own lives.
“Look at Helen down the street,
got so fat, her husband, had to cheat on her.
Henry says it’s her own damn fault.
He told Helen, ‘ If you get fat
I’m leaving you for a younger thinner thing.’”
More often now, she wears her momma’s skirt
stained with a circle of pee.
Momma wore this white linen
when she got old, fat, incontinent.
It was washed clean,
scrubbed day and night after she died.
Still it makes her feel close to love
Ain’t getting any here she thinks
when her husband isn’t looking.
Her husband watches the skirt
with its dim yellow stain float
between her legs. He tries to look away
from what he has to do –
“I told you,” he says, “I’d leave you
when you got fat and old, ugly like
your mother and Helen. I told you.”
He handed her a fifty dollar bill.
“Buy a new skirt and underwear,” he said.
That was the last time she saw him.
She goes to Momma’s grave on Sundays
wearing Momma’s panties, dark wool,
no stained skirt, Sunday straw hat.
She places flowers she bought for her momma
fifty dollars worth.
Momma smiles, shouts, yells hallelujah,
And the other buried people
sing hallelujah. Then finish with an amen.