God forgive me --
It's the firemen,
leaning in the firehouse garage
with their sleeves rolled up
on the hottest day of the year.
As usual, the darkest one is handsomest.
The oldest is handsomest.
The one with the thin, wiry arms is handsomest.
The young one already going bald is handsomest.
And so on.
Every day I pass them at their station:
the word sexy wouldn't do them justice.
Such idle men are divine --
especially in summer, when my hair
sticks to the back of my neck,
a dirty wind from the subway grate
blows my skirt up, and I feel vulgar,
lifting my hair, gathering it together,
tying it back while they watch
as a kind of relief.
Once, one of them walked beside me
to the corner. Looked into my eyes.
He said, "Will I never see you again?"
Gutsy, I thought.
I'm afraid not, I thought.
What I said was I'm sorry.
But how could he look into my eyes
if I didn't look equally into his?
I'm sorry: as though he'd come close, as though
this really were a near miss.
from A Working Girl Can't Win: And Other Poems