Two Sisters at Union Station (1980)

Two Sisters at Union Station (1980)
by diy danna
Waiting for the Amtrak in D.C. two elderly women sit,
bronzed statues on a bench at the station
coming to life with shelled peanuts and gossip.
The sightseeing sisters talk about lives in two states.
The eldest, Maria, dyes her hair coal black
and reads Novenas with black coffee and
cornbread with milk for breakfast.
She almost left her husband in 1945 and 1961.
The youngest, Bonita, lets her temples go gray
and solves crosswords with a blue Bic and
curses when she makes a mistake over tea.
Her first husband died in 1944. She remarried in 1947.
Maria lives in East Texas and confides,
“Anna lives in Houston now and doesn’t know how to cook.
That African husband of hers cooks fish stew and
odd grainy stuff supposed to look like rice, but it’s not.”
Bonita-who lives in East New Jersey-replies,
“Women these days say there’s no time with work.
Martin is always tired, cooking and taking care of things
’cause my DeeDee never cooks or cleans their home in Brooklyn.”
The sisters continue criticizing grown-up children, and doting
on perfect, smart and beautiful grandchildren.
The arrival of the last afternoon train is announced.
Grand Central is the final stop-before The Fantasticks.
“Remember when we had to sit in separate cars
from the white folks?” Maria stands up and stretches.
“On the train from Texas to Utah in 1942
they made me switch cars and wait ’til supper was cold.”
“Oh, it was bad when I visited Stephen, rest his soul, in Baltimore.
Before he shipped off I took the train to meet him,”
Bonita recollects, “and they packed us all in like big stale sardines
in the tiniest tin you can imagine. No, I don’t miss those days.”
Maria and Bonita walk arm in arm up the north breezeway.
To most of the commuters they look like two old women,
walking too slow to catch a train at the decayed station.
But the sisters make it in time, feeling like young war brides.

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