Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Today's poem - When Women Went Downtown by Patricia Fargnoli

When Women Went Downtown
by Patricia Fargnoli
Poet Laureate of New Hampshire

The city was brick and stone in the time
before glass and steel. In those days
the city was streets of women.
They climbed down from buses
in seal skin, navy straw hats stuck with pearl drop pins,
their double-knotted Red Cross shoes,
clutching black cowhide purses, leading the children.

They lunched in tea rooms
on chicken-a-la-king and quartered sandwiches
but never wine--and never with men.
Rising in the smoky air,
their voices blended--silver striking off silver.
They haunted book rental booths,
combed aisles of threads and zippers,

climbed to the theater balconies, the palaces
where Astaire dipped and turned them
into more than they were.
In the late afternoons they crowded the winter dusk
waiting at the Isle-of-Safety, for the bus
with the right name to carry them home
to the simmer of soup on the stove,
the fire's sweet red milk.

Evenings, far over the tiny houses
the wind swept the black pines like a broom,
stars swirled in their boiling cauldron of indigo
and the children floated to sleep to the women's song
zipping the night together, to the story
of the snow goose who went farther and farther
and never returned.


  1. What a picture she portrays with her words. And, it's so nice to see a woman's face who is NOT all caught up in the facade of appearance. She seems a real woman to me.

  2. Thanks for posting this poem. Quite nostalgic, even though I'm not from New Hampshire, or anywhere in America, there are still points where I can identify with the images.

  3. Thank you for letting me discover Patricia Fargnoli, I like this very evocative poem.It reminded me somewhat of Martin Armstrong's poem "Miss Thompson goes shopping" You can read it on the link ' Julia's favorite Poetry' I am sure you will love it, it takes me back to England whenever I read it!

  4. I hear the pines. I miss my pines.
    I think we still sound like silver off silver... Lovely poem.

  5. What a lovely poem, by a poet I've never heard of. I've been feeling pretty bad about poetry on the web for a few weeks now, since I read Wendy Cope having a rant about how bad it is, because poets don't get paid for poems that appear on the web blah blah. And I thought, yes, how unfair is that. But here, here's the alternative view, the generous one - the one that shares and makes a new readership.

    So a double thank you: for the poem, and for the better thought


  6. I was so pleased that you all wrote. Yesterday I read an endpiece in a magazine about house finches building a nest at a senior housing place, and it was written by Patricia Fargnoli. I looked her up and found to my chagrin and embarrassment that she is my state's Poet Laureate and has been for a while now. :<( But I made up for lost time and read a lot of her poetry online last evening, and when I found this one, I loved it and had to put it on the blog. Her descriptions make these women and their activities so real. You may read more about the Isle of Safety in Hartford, Connecticut here, if you are interested:


    And do you suppose she is referring to The Snow Goose which I recently wrote about? I betcha!

    K, thanks for leading me to that poem and the site. I'll be spending some time reading there.

    Joanna, it's a tricky thing about money and the internet. I agree that there is a generosity to put them out there for our enjoyment.

  7. This is wonderful, Nan. I love things that are about real people's lives rather than those of celebrity. Very evocative, thank you for posting it.

  8. Thanks so much for this, Nan. A poet I know recently stated that there are no great women poets. He is wrong.


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