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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Sunday Morning

My cousin Mary collected proposals like

     bottle caps. “Well, another one popped the question last night,”

she’d say, tossing it off of a Sunday brunch, when we

gathered at Abel’s Cafe to compare our Saturday nights.

The crowded dance floors, thick with

the fumes of alcohol and cigarettes, stirred

with darkness, clogged our senses.

Sunday morning, we came up for air, eating outside

     in the sun, bright on newly washed hair and fresh

print dresses or slacks.

Those with the morning shift couldn’t come, but

usually four or five of us would meet,

sometimes more, all nurses. No men. Sometimes,

     one of us would come after working all night. Breakfast was dinner,

to be followed by sleep. Sometimes, one would be up all night

     for other reasons and arrive

hair stiff with spray and last night’s smoke.

 

Then there was Nora, who agonized over

each one. She’d arrive Sunday morning

bleary-eyed, after a night spent discussing

     the pros and cons with some guy on a bench

in a park—each word weighted, each touch negotiated.

“Oh, no,” she moaned; “I’m afraid I broke his heart.

He’s shipping out tomorrow. He’s in the infantry.

We both know the odds. Was I selfish,

to turn him down?”

Jane shook her head. “No, Nora. You weren’t selfish.

     Just sensible.”

“He’s gone now, anyway,” said Mary,

     “so why worry about it?”

I kicked her under the table. “Be nice.”

“Okey-dokey. I’ll be good.”

To Nora she said, “Sure it’s selfish.

     But that’s not always bad.”

Nora looked as if Mary’d just said

     two plus two equaled

     seventeen.

“But selfishness,” she began.

“Never mind,” I said. “Look at the sun

     on the leaves.”

For a few minutes,

     that’s all we did.

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