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When Women Went Downtown
Patricia Fargnoli


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.

This poem first appeared in Comstock Review.
Used with the author's permission.


Patricia Fargnoli (1937 - 2021) served as New Hampshire's Poet Laureate from 2006 through the spring of 2009. A retired social worker, she wrote six collections of poetry, once proclaiming, "Poetry is the center of my life." While Patricia started writing at the age of six, she didn't get serious about it until her mid-thirties--and didn't publish her first book until age 62. A resident first of Connecticut and then New Hampshire, Patricia worked as both an editor and teacher and her award-winning poetry appeared in numerous publications.

Post New Comment:
chris schulz:
An evening poem, and it's a dark, wet morning on the central coast of "the wind swept the black pines like a broom".
Posted 12/11/2014 09:11 AM
from my own childhood, when it was safe for even girl children to ride downtown alone on the bus
Posted 12/10/2014 09:10 AM
yes, I remember those women too! lovely poem...
Posted 12/10/2014 07:50 AM
Just wonderful. From a time long ago and not so long ago.
Posted 12/10/2014 06:29 AM
Wonderful! I'm old enough to remember women like this, and times like these. Thanks.
Posted 12/10/2014 12:28 AM

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