Husband and Wife Over a Kitchen Table in Nebraska (from the “Bizarro Ted Kooser” Series)

Choosing the bills
to pay this month,
seated side-by-side
at their small, wooden
kitchen table, covered
with a thin blue tablecloth
that barely hides the grooves
from years of use,
the two of them,
Mother and Father,
alone, after the children have
been rented out
for the evening.

“We’re poor, Mother,” he says.
“We’re poor.”

She puts both her hands
on the cheeks of his whiskered face
and turns him to face her.
She looks lovingly into his one good eye,
momentarily, then gets that familiar look,
that cold, steely glint in her eyes
when a hard truth needs to be told.
“We need more inventory, Father.”

And somewhere in the next county
there is the thunderous backfire of a car
or an old dog being shot, so thankful,
that he doesn’t even whimper.

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