Hospitality and Judgment (draft 4?)

Women talk in hushed tones near each others’ ears. She’s sweet
as pie, but she don’t have the sense God gave a June bug! I add
one more cup of sugar to sun-brewed sweet tea, stirring with a wooden spoon
while the mothers in the kitchen discuss the impropriety –
the neighbor’s daughter dating a boy
the color of dried tobacco leaves. Bless her heart.

You’d think we all wore heels and A-line dresses,
that we hadn’t seen the moon landing, that “separate but equal” was ahead,
not fifty years behind us. Lordy-be;
tuck your shirt in and button up girl; you ain’t a hussy. As if
one button, unbuttoned, means I’ll do the same. As if it even matters, as if
dating a boy with darker skin means you haven’t been raised right.
There’s a sad and timeless irony
in our odd combinations of hospitality and judgment.

I set the table with ‘mater sandwiches and a sweet, overgrown cantaloupe
we raised in the backyard. My hands shake
so much I can’t straighten the silverware.
I knock over the mercury glass vase full
of sunflowers. Water and thin yellow petals tip onto the floor.

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