World: ’60s

It was the late sixties: summer weekends of hot
pants and mini skirts, The Beatles’ White

Album, the year of the vibrating
belt exercise machine— a row of them

lined up against one wall of the beauty salon
that mother’s new friend Mila ran at the American

base. Women in capri pants slid the elastic band
around their waists or hips, turned the dial

then faced away, trying to keep a serious face
through twenty minutes of electric rippling.

Afterwards, they’d let me sit with them
to have a clear manicure of my own while they

had their full sets done. Outside, the air
still smelled of pine. They’d put on their cropped

cardigans and cat-eye sunglasses and we’d stroll
to the 19th Tee where the men were nursing

coffee or a nip of something stronger,
tapping impatient fingers on formica

or on their wristwatches. When I snagged
and broke the strap of my only pair of sandals

on a shrub, one of Mila’s many daughters said
she’d take me to the store for a replacement.

They were all so tall, so willowy;
it was easy to feel in awe. Father said

some of them had gone away to school in Europe,
knew two or three languages and more: accomplished

was the word he used. We looked through box
after box on shelves until I found a strappy

orange pair my size. Everyone always wore a slightly
amused expression— as if the merest thing

were a wonderment or could turn into a private
joke: a way to lightly wear the world in worldly.

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