THE working girls in the morning are going to work--
long lines of them afoot amid the downtown stores
and factories, thousands with little brick-shaped
lunches wrapped in newspapers under their arms.
Each morning as I move through this river of young-
woman life I feel a wonder about where it is all
going, so many with a peach bloom of young years
on them and laughter of red lips and memories in
their eyes of dances the night before and plays and
Green and gray streams run side by side in a river and
so here are always the others, those who have been
over the way, the women who know each one the
end of life's gamble for her, the meaning and the
clew, the how and the why of the dances and the
arms that passed around their waists and the fingers
that played in their hair.
Faces go by written over: "I know it all, I know where
the bloom and the laughter go and I have memories,"
and the feet of these move slower and they
have wisdom where the others have beauty.
So the green and the gray move in the early morning
on the downtown streets.
--"Working Girls," Carl Sandburg.
I ride the subway with pretty girls, with sleek ponytails and high boots and red pea coats, so many beautiful girls in one subway car -- the odds shouldn't be this good to have this much bloom of youth in one contained space, one moment, one 7:05 train hurtling towards the city. They have, to steal from Mr. Sandburg, a peach bloom of young years on them, a certain undeniable blush. They always have pea coats. They always wear boots. They always have long hair, pretty hair, down to their waist or past their shoulders. They're going to work at ad agencies and magazines and real estate offices, going to write or answer phones or fill out spreadsheets, and at night I imagine they go out and dance or laugh or order tall glasses of wine, and I hear them talk to each other on the subway as if in a different language. I'm curious, I admit, and I steal glances to those standing or sitting around me -- admiring the earrings, the silken scarf, the cream-colored coat.
It reminds me so much of Sandburg's Working Girls, except as I move with them, balance the train car's shuttling movement and pour off the train with them, wait next to them on the street, I know we're going to the same place, but I can't help but feel I'm part of the gray stream, not the green, and I wonder when I ever was part of the green, and if I ever could be again.