by Jennifer L. Freed

I am there, at the Worcester Public Library, just after opening,
there in the ladies’ room, waving my lathered hands ineffectively

over the granite basin, under the shining faucet,
when the woman who steps from the stall behind me—

she with her layers of scarves and sweaters, her coat
folded over one arm—she places two bags on the floor—nice

bags, new-looking, with names of nice stores, their sides
stretched taut as ripe tomatoes after rain—

and she stands by the wall, watching, like a doe
at the edge of a meadow, deciding, deciding—

and I meet her gaze in the mirror, and I shrug, sorry
for delaying any snatch of aloneness

in which she might soap the tenderness under her arms,
or the back of her neck, beneath her fine hair,

and she steps forward, shows me
where to place my cupped hands

so the invisible eye
in the sleek metal neck

can see them, fill them
with water.

JENNIFER L. FREED (she/her) has poems appearing in various print and on-line journals including Atlanta Review, Naugatuck River Review, Rust + Moth, and Zone 3, as well as in various anthologies. Her chapbook, These Hands Still Holding,was a finalist in the 2013 New Women’s Voices Competition (Finishing Line Press).  She was awarded the 2020 Samuel Washington Allen Prize  (New England Poetry Club) and has been a finalist for the Frank O’Hara prize multiple times. Please visit her on-line at Jfreed.weebly.com

Photo: “faucet” by SoQ