The Girls of Paris
No matter their age,
they were always the girls,
dressed in starched white uniforms,
and white rubber soled shoes.
They might have been nurses
lined up at the bus stop after closing time,
if not for their black aprons
dusty with powdered sugar.
The girls have blisters on their feet,
running back and forth
behind the counter all day,
and blisters on their hands
breaking the red and white string
spooling from the ceiling
for the cardboard boxes
embossed with a gold Eiffel Tower.
“Take a number, please.”
The line spills out the door
on Sunday mornings
when church bells ring over Jersey City,
and the girls brace themselves
for the wave of saints and sinners
descending on the bakery
after the final hymn is sung.
“Six apple turnovers,”
orders the lady in the blue felt hat.
“Gimme a pound cake, and a babka,”
bellows the man in the pinstriped suit,
snapping his pocket watch for effect.
“Birthday cake pick up—
No, it’s Cathy with a C, dammit.
Can’t you read?”
She flips the sign in the window
and she scrapes the crumbs
from the heavy trays
to scrub for tomorrow’s rush.
The girls get their pick of anything
left at the end of the day.
They stock up on cheese Danish
and apple crumb cake.
She picks up her box
tied with red and white string.
Butter cookies tonight.
The kids will be happy.
Gloria Heffernan’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Icarus, Pleiades, The Comstock Review, Stone Canoe, Parody, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Healing Muse, The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literary, and The New York Times Metropolitan Diary. She has had articles and essays in numerous publications including The Chronicle of Higher Education, Radiance Magazine, The Eugene O’Neill Review, and The Dramatist’s Guild Quarterly. She teaches part-time at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York and holds a Master’s Degree in English from New York University.