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

from Come-in-We’re-Open

to Sorry-We’re-Closed,

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.