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The Ladies' Room


There's a stranger in the stall in front of me.

Ignoring the room's smell,

she memorizes the words,

absorbs the messages.

She touches the wall,

as if the scribbles could change her.

Her magic marker squeaks,


forth its juice,

the advice and fear

of a woman who feels compelled to leave her mark.

These are the hieroglyphics of sisterhood,

images not even the janitor's sweat

could scrub away.

Even the occasional, "For a good time, call . . ."

has a spirit that can't be broken by S.O.S.

As I wait for my turn,

I know, in a moment,

this stranger will emerge

to warm palm-skin with paper-towel embrace,

seeking, once more, the mirror's guidance,

as if the lines on her face could tell her something

she doesn't already know.

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