Until recently I lived in England's Lane and opposite our flat there was a service wash, and sometimes I talked to the lady who was officiating. This is dedicated to her.

Urban Lyric


The gaunt lady of the service wash
stands on the threshold and blinks in the sunlight.

Her face is yellow in its frizz of hair
and yet she smiles as if she were fortunate.

She listens to the hum of cars passing
as if she were on a country lane in summer,

or as if the tall trees edging this
busy street scattered blessings on her.

Last month they cut a cancer out of her throat.
This morning she tastes sunshine in the dusty air.

And she is made alert to the day’s beauty,
as if her terror had wakened poetry.

from Collected Poems and Translations (Carcanet, 2002), copyright © Elaine Feinstein 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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