April 14, 2011

NaPoWriMo 2011, day 11: Greta Van Winkle

I’ve been writing my poem-a-day, but haven’t kept up the blog posts. Time to play catch-up.

Greta (Mrs. Rip) Van Winkle

That lazy lout was no good in
or out of bed. No food
in the pantry, and seldom a log
in the fireplace, if you get my drift.
I can forgive a lot if that’s fine.
One day he says to me, I’m hungry,
like all I got to do is snap
my fingers to put beef on the board.
Me too, I says, what are you
going to do about it? The Lord
will provide, he says
in that way of his. I believe
if someone offered him a sack of gold
but said, You got to carry it home,
he’d ask for a twist of tobacco instead.
Give the Lord some help, I says,
go shoot some rabbit or something.
I can hear his belly growling,
the house is filthy, not that he cares,
the kids are crying from hunger,
and he grabs his gun and strolls out humming,
as happy as if he had sense.
A storm comes up after he leaves
and by night he still isn’t back and I think
Good, serves him right to sleep in the rain.
A nice brain fever can’t make him any worse.
Only he don’t come back, not for days
and not for weeks nor months neither.
After a while I stop waiting for him
and start waiting for me — to worry,
or miss him, or grieve, but I don’t.
I suppose the other ne’er-do-wells
down to the pub toast his memory now and then,
but the children hardly notice he’s gone.
Then the war comes and we all get busy,
and then the war leaves and we’re raising
a new country, and I’ve long since figured
my husband’s dead and start walking out
with a nice silversmith, my age but still
stands straight and has some heat
in the furnace, when of course old Rip
turns up, ambling down the path
like he’d just left. Has some poppycock tale
about going bowling and letting the time get away.
I take him back. I have to, or folks will talk.
But every time he goes out, I pray for rain.



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