The not-asking

When you ask her 
where her shoes are,
she tells you finally,
that she's outgrown
them all. 

Turns out she's been wearing her
battered, torn snowboots to class
for two months, maybe three.
She's been wearing them
all the time, whatever the weather.

When you ask her why
she didn't tell you sooner
that she had no shoes, she says
I know we don't have enough money this month.

But shoes, you sputter. Shoes.
Don't feel bad about needing shoes.
You can't ever feel bad about
needing shoes.

But of course she can. And she does.
She has seen you skip dinner.
She has slept in your bed when
the oil tank was empty.

She doesn't want to talk about it.
You wish you could wrap
your arms around her bony shoulders
and take it all back.

Too bad you don't know anymore
what that all would be, the magic
all that would change everything.
You need the all that will fill what's
empty and empty what's too full.

I get that from you, she says. 
The not-asking, she means.
I don't always know how to ask for help.

She glances at you, untangling
your expression. You, her confounding
comical cross, her absurd blessing,

you who eat, breathe and sleep worry,
you with more frets than her yellow ukelele.