A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Surrender: Tuesday, August 14

The week before I met him: madness reigned.

Stray voices in the street yelled, urgently, waking me

from my afternoon, pre-night-shift nap, but

no sooner did I hoist the window up than

the air-raid sirens started, all San Francisco’s thirty,

I read next day. In that shriek and howl, I scrambled after

wisps of words, snagging one here, one there, hardly

hearing Edna’s “Hello, roomie,” as she came in.

We both leaned out the window, then whirled

as the door crashed wide and Nora,

hand to brow, cried “Bombs! DeWitt said the Japanese would attack

     and they have!” before

     dissolving in a heap upon my floor.

Edna, hands on hips, shook her head. “How does she manage

complete sentences, just before she faints?”

“Sorry, Linda, I couldn’t stop her in time,” said Nora’s

     roommate Ruby, stepping over the body

     to join us at the window. “What’s happening out here?”

I shook my head.

“Don’t know,” said Edna. “But it’s loud.” She started pulling off

     her gloves. “Damn and blast. Never touch a windowsill

in white gloves. How do you keep them clean?”

“Don’t swear,” said Ruby, reaching for the gloves. “It makes you seem

coarse. And don’t do that! You’re just

     rubbing it in.”
“I am coarse,” said Edna, snatching back the gloves.

“Be quiet,” I begged. “I’m trying to listen.”

But now the flood of other girls from

     down the hall pushed to get near our

     streetside window, tangled arms and voices:

“Watch out for Nora.”

“Oh, not again.”

“Why does she always do it in a doorway?”

“Quiet!” I yelled, dashing for the radio, but it was

     Edna’s translation—“Shut your yappers, girls!”—that

               did the trick.

Fumbling with the dial, the tuning uncertain, a strange squawk, and then—

announcer’s voice, high and hurried,

“ —as yet unconfirmed, that the Japanese have surrendered—”

That was all I heard, before utter bedlam erupted

     in the midst of which Nora, up again, went down again,

draping herself all inconvenient grace across Ruby,

who managed to get a hold as she went down.

The banging at my open door was my crazy cousin Mary,

who lived nowhere near yet turned up

at every crucial moment, crying, “Let’s go!”

The tide that had carried everyone into my room

     now turned and swept them out again,

Ruby dragging Nora by her arms. In the hall we eddied,

paused to collect purses and hats (in my case,

     a dress) before surging towards the door.

“What should I do with Nora?” Ruby cried.

“Oh, blast Nora. Leave her here,” said Edna,

jumping to see over heads and bodies

     jammed in the doorway, the rest of us

     massed behind.

Ruby hesitated, then bent to lay the limp

     girl down.

“Watch out for her head!” warned tender-hearted Jane.

“Blast her head,” Ruby grunted.

“My hat!” someone cried, but whether she’d

forgotten it, or it had been knocked off,

I never knew; there was no way to resist

the current that carried us through the doorway,

spilling us over the steps and sidewalk beyond.

Suddenly released, our dammed-up energy

pushed us to run, the fan of bright dresses

widening, flowing into the street, and downhill.

When from the sidewalk I looked back, there was

Nora, waving her hat and calling, “Wait, wait!”

“Mobilize your marchers,” Edna said.

“Let’s find out what’s hopping, and if nothing is,

well, we’ll change that. Hang onto your hats,

boys, the girls of the Presidio are

     coming down the line!”

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