The Girls in Steno, 1970

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Contributor: Donal Mahoney

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When it’s break time
the girls all walk together,
cigarette-protector cases
clasped between their index

tapers and their thumbs.
On each girl’s fingers glow
iridescent lacquers.
When break time nears,

they peek at each other,
twinkle, giggle, nod.
When break time comes,
a bell rings and the girls rise

like Lazarus. High on heels
they click in couples down the hall
to fill an elevator.
They get off at One. There

they float across the cafeteria,
men everywhere,
eyes everywhere.
(Is he the one?)

When a new girl’s hired
the old girls
put her to the test:
Will she join them

for the coffee break?
If she does, she joins them forever,
even after she marries,
retires or expires.

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Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.


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