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After his shouts, the strops, her screams, the thrown things,

the doorslam, the bitter weeping,

out of the thin box, as the delicate paper was parted,

she'd lift the sheer mojud stockings

and run her fingertips along them,

slowly smiling girlishly again.

She'd begin singing a Perry Como song,

she loved Perry Como and would sing

the same song he sang, all day long,

on the Make-Believe Ballroom Time.

Then, in a black brassiere strapped to her freckled shoulders,

she'd sit on the bed, fit the stockings,

stand up and notch them to the garters

that hung down from her black girdle,

A ripple of fat ran round her waist, squeezed out

by the girdle, different from

the plumps that swelled out from her brassiere.

And I saw a blue bruise, the shadow

of a belt-buckle on her thigh.

But she was singing again, and over the girdle

she'd put on a pair of pink bloomers,

and over everything, then,a brown-and-white flower-print

summer-golden dress.

Her white heels had holes in the toes where her nail-polish

showed through. The bottle of polish, tweezers, lipstick,

rouge, brush and emeryboard were on the vanity table

over there looking in the mirror.

Her lips swam in the Como song with rose-red strokes,

reaching the end with a shiny glow,

like the waxy cameo of her mother

on the brooch in the drawer.

She'd hold out her hand and say, "Come, darling?"

We'd walk hand in hand up and down our street

in the twilight,

and the neighbors would cry out: "Hi, Nellie!" or "Hello,

Mrs. Hirschman," and "Hi, Jackie. My, how you've grown!"