When Women Went Downtown
The city was brick and stone in the time
before glass and steel. In those days
the city was streets of women.
They climbed down from buses
in seal skin, navy straw hats stuck with pearl drop pins,
their double-knotted Red Cross shoes,
clutching black cowhide purses, leading the children.
They lunched in tea rooms
on chicken-a-la-king and quartered sandwiches
but never wine--and never with men.
Rising in the smoky air,
their voices blended--silver striking off silver.
They haunted book rental booths,
combed aisles of threads and zippers,
climbed to the theater balconies, the palaces
where Astaire dipped and turned them
into more than they were.
In the late afternoons they crowded the winter dusk
waiting at the Isle-of-Safety, for the bus
with the right name to carry them home
to the simmer of soup on the stove,
the fire’s sweet red milk.
Evenings, far over the tiny houses
the wind swept the black pines like a broom,
stars swirled in their boiling cauldron of indigo
and the children floated to sleep to the women’s song
zipping the night together, to the story
of the snow goose who went farther and farther
and never returned.