Thursday, December 6, 2007

Temporary Labor


Corridors of us, spinsters,
rented rooms just above
a Chinese school in San Francisco,
secretaries or bookkeepers whose
Saturday-morning dreams were interrupted by
the school marching band’s
triangles and drums thumping and dinging
back and forth across the school playground.

We walked through Chinatown on our way
to work in the financial district each day,
shopped on Grant Avenue
for blue-and-white china, jade, and tabi,
prayed for the right husband in the mahogany-paneled,
incense-scented gloom of Old St. Mary’s,
served each other sherry before dinner,
dated each other’s visiting brothers.

Some of us watched the Chinese New Year’s Parade
under a sea of frilly red-and-gold umbrellas
in a light shower the year
I lived there: shiny red-and-gold cheongsam
visible in the V-necks of our raincoats,
glowing red-and-gold lanterns swaying gently
over the festive, noisy scene.
I remember the smell
of freshly-baked almond cookies,
and the thumping and dinging
of ‘our’ school band as it marched by.

I do not know whether or not
the natives knew we spinsters lived among them,
a river of unmarried women who
worked in San Francisco
for a year or two after college,

and who were worried.

What were we going to do
with the rest of our lives?

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