The immigrant changes

the plastic bags lining the trash
bins in the lobby and rooms of Hotel
America. Her dark hair’s parted in
the middle and neatly done up in a bun.
On her left lapel is a name tag which reads
Florinda. She has the evening shift,
so the bins already overflow with the day’s
accumulation of every guests’s cast-offs: lids
and empty styrofoam cups, tissues, greasy sandwich
wrappers, crumpled bags whose insides are dusted
yellow-orange or dull brown. She ties up the ends,
careful to check for any rips or spills. There can’t
be any wayward smells, no hint of fleshy stink
or rot to mar the sanitized air in the lobby.
She hefts the bags out of the bins, onto a trolley;
pats down a double liner then snaps their mouths
over the rim. She’ll do this thirty times on this
floor, until her palms inside the latex gloves
itch from sweat and constant chafing. As she works,
a steady stream of people comes and goes: talking,
laughing, impatient with the doors; wobbling from
the bar in the early hours. They hardly notice
she is there, and that is exactly as she’s been
instructed. Upstairs, on every floor, the corner
lounges overlook the bridges arcing over the bay.
Sometimes she’ll stop to adjust the potted plants
and check the soil around their bases— how spongy
or dry, how stiff the limbs under this skylight,
every embrasure punctured with cold white light.

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