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The Nightclub Singer

by Mary Brunini McArdle

The nightclub singer sat at her favorite table
In the restaurant on Fifth Street;
The place stayed open until midnight.
Her calf-length black silk dress
Trimmed with ragged bands of sequins
On sleeve and hem and neckline
Looked less worn in the dim light at night.
A little nest glittered on the floor
Where the sequin bands had shed,
And a tear on her left knee marred
The matching black net hosiery.

She drank coffee with sugar and longed
For a cigarette, but she had denied herself
That pleasure for years in order to protect
Her voice — her livelihood, her definition.
Her face was smooth for a woman her age,
Her eyes were faded and her hair too long.
Its color indiscernible.

She could no longer find work, but she missed it.
Without it she was nothing.
The restaurant emptied out at ten,
Leaving her alone with memories
Of past triumphs.
She hummed torch songs and finally
Picked up her purse.

She had a room in a rundown hotel.
She sat in the lobby reading old newspapers;
Delaying the flights of stairs
She had to mount.
Her fingers became smeared with newsprint,
A few black sequins catching here and there;
Tired and empty, she dreaded the night
That always denied her consolation.

Copyright © 2009 by Mary Brunini McArdle

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