“Gerda” (In memory of Carolyn Fizer 1924-2014)

Down the long curving walk you trudge to the street,
Stoop-shouldered in defeat, a cardboard suitcase
In each hand. Gerda, don’t leave! the child cries
From the porch, waving and weeping; her stony mother
Speaks again of the raise in salary
Denied. Gerda demands ten dollars more
Than the twenty-five a month she has been paid
To sew, cook, keep house, dress and undress the child,
Bathe the child with the rough scaly hands
she cleans in Clorox; sing to the child
In Swedish, teach her to pray, to count her toes
In Swedish. Forty years on, the child still knows how.

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