Almost always, the woman alone, naked,
or thinking about getting naked.

Sometimes she is on a train, or waits in the hotel lobby, or presses
her back into the velvet curtain of the movie theater,

and she can give her loneliness no shape at all.
Sometimes, there is no woman at all, though it must have been she

who left the window open like that, so the light could come in.
And what now, when she has slipped off the pink dress

without come-on or ceremony
and stands or crouches in her flimsy chemise or not?

Maybe her calves are aching from the pumps that she wears
to the high-rise office where the light follows her. It rests

on her forehead and breasts as she files the man’s files or leans
over his shoulder to answer the phone.

She wonders at her own solid arms, sore from the luggage
ungirdling itself in the corner, or asks where it is

she is being sent to. She thinks of how soon
she must rise and wash her underarms and dress for the man

who will take her to dinner and the symphony and then
for drinks in the hotel bar without ever looking her in the face.

It will be impossible to know what she looks like in the mirror of him,
she will fret that all her dresses are the same color—

she, standing there now with all the immodest strength
of a clapboard house, who has not even asked for this light.

Listen:

Author Image

Emily Carroll is the nonfiction editor of Printer’s Devil Review. She lives in Boston, where she co-curates Moonlighting, an LGBTQ poetry reading series.

Feature image by Jennifer Bornstein

Click on the image to enlarge.

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