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By Joan Murray

In her broad brimmed hat with its sprig of fabric flowers,

and her long linen skirt, the color of caffé crème,

and her ivory ghillies with their delicate tassels,

she could be at a summer party, but she’s really

at a counter in a Staples in November,

and she’s had nothing but trouble making her copies,

and she’s giggling her apologies

and writing her checks so slowly,

then having to cross them out.

Her face is glowing from the effort and the pleasure

though her skin’s been crimped by age:

she’s eighty-five if she’s a day,

beneath her summery brim,

and though the clerk at the counter

keeps smiling politely, she’s clearly annoying him:

He drums his fingers on the counter

as she labors through another

ruined signature.

She must see, as I do, how handsome he is

with his dark Latin eyes, and his hair

gelled up in a sexy v. Though he’s naturally mannerly,

he wants to be rid of her –

his smile’s become stiff as an autumn leaf.

Can’t she see how he’s flashing his eyes at me

to say, “Any minute now.”

Yet she keeps chatting away obliviously,

and even when her turn is through,

she doesn’t step aside, but makes it clear

she means to stay – the way children

sometimes do on summer nights along the shore,

when the sun gets doubly bright before it sets,

and they refuse to come inside,

or gather up their toys,

but dig in with their toes to where they feel

the heat of the day, and hold fiercely

to the light until it goes.

JOAN MURRAY, a former Buffalo resident who now lives in Old Chatham, will join poet Joyce Kessel in the next Readings at the RIC Series reading March 26 in the Research and Information Commons of Daemen College, 4380 Main St., Amherst.