The Ladies’ Tea Club
Tuesdays, half past two,
the ladies of Cornerstone Baptist sit
in formation to a pattern as old
as Miss Thelma, the 92-year-old founder
of this gathering of faded teacups, lace doilies,
and the stretchy jeans and gym suits of women
with laundry drying on the clothesline and supper
dangling like a loose participle in the back of their minds.
Only Molly Nunnelley, eldest daughter of the Reverend who has served
this congregation for four, long decades, shows Miss Thelma
her full due, the young Molly’s hair always coiffed just so,
her full frame forced into a fashionable dress
made perfect for a woman half Molly’s size.
Roberta Long, confirmed coffee drinker,
mocks the Earl Grey swirling with cream,
her tall mug of Arabica wafting circles
towards Molly’s lavender-scented kerchief,
Molly’s only link to a reality
where a handsome bachelor once
held hands as they strolled
down the dusty path near Hurley’s cotton patch.
Roberta knows those hands better than Molly now,
fifteen years later. Thin Roberta with her
curvy hips and Miss Thelma’s happy smile.
The Tea Club loves Roberta, who mocks
them all with more than her coffee cup.
If only one of them would notice
Molly’s neatly trimmed nails
and sling back heels. If only her days
were more than Tea Clubs and steamy novels
stashed away from Reverend Nunnelley’s watchful eyes,
the only pleasures of a grown woman
still sleeping on her childhood bed.
April 2, 2015