Horn & Hardarts Revisited

Every May, in the middle of the month
we’d ride the D bus headed south
to Center City Philadelphia
for the annual Wanamaker’s Foundation Sale.
And even though you had no money–
except the bus fare for two and lunch for one–
something about gazing
at the latest Vanity Fairs
stroking the satin straps of an Exquisite Form
made you feel sexy,
made you wish that just once
your husband would run his fingers through your platinum blonde hair
and kiss you on the neck
or tell him how much he wanted you.

And afterwards, we’d walk past the perfume counter
and you’d spray Channel No. 5 from your own private bottle,
a tester, that Sally the sales clerk kept by the register just for you.
Then we’d leave through the Thirteenth Street Exit
and walk to Horn & Hardarts on Broad Street.

I’ll always remember the stainless steel L-shaped cafeteria
for those who preferred a hot meal; or
the small glass compartments of the Automat
with bright silver knobs for handles looking
like little jewelry boxes for food: bologna & cheese sandwiches
stacked atop like Hematite in Jasper,
a wedge of lemon meringue pie resting like Golden Beryl on a doily
or maybe a lone Washington Red Delicious.

You always drank coffee without a meal
as I lunched on a salisbury steak, macaroni & cheese and a coke;
your eyes as green as the dollar bills that you didn’t have,
the ones that could’ve bought you lunch and a sexy new bra.
But you didn’t tell me then that you only had only coffee
because that was all you could afford–if I was to eat–
so a child of five was sheltered from borderline poverty.

And as I rested my cheek on your Oil of Olayed one, the smell of Channel No. 5 on your neck
the perfect set of white teeth as you smiled,
the D Bus took us north, back to East Oaklane,
back to the luminous humidity of your love
that through time and memory still hangs on.

Wynne Guglielmo

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