Tuesday, July 04, 2006

AFTERNOONS LAST YEAR

I always refer to them
As the little girls in 11-C
But I always think of them
As the little Chinese girls


With princesses’ names--
Caroline. Stephanie.
Dainty as paper dolls,
Their glossy hair
A single laughing creature,
One simple slick of tumbling wood.


They’re in China now
The little Chinese girls
Still in the afternoons
I see them sometimes


Stephanie, kindergarten fresher--
Rambunctious, opinionated,
scolding her grandmother
In a rolling waterfall of language
and then smiling at me
with identical delight


And Caroline, then 12,
picking through her words
As though
they were a handful


of M&M colored beads
Her eyes like pebbles
her fists like rocks
curious about my hair, my bracelets
And unlike other 12-year-olds
still so small that I can’t offer to share


In the afternoons waiting
For the school bus
to bring my son back to me
I’d converse with their grandmother


Who only spoke Mandarin.
Or rather
we bowed, we smiled, we signed
With pithy opinions
About the weather, food, my schoolwork
They’re all in China now


Last year, their mom used to work
in the Lipstick Building
On Third Avenue (near 55th St.)
Two buildings away from K’s


I always expected
to bump into her
All those now long ago
lunchtimes with him
I miss them
all.

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