At the Algonquin
by Ann Howells

Did Dorothy order shrimp salad from room service?
Did she sit on a padded stool, sip a martini
(Manhattan, cosmopolitan),
hone her wicked tongue against her teeth?

I picture her here--tailored red suit,
narrow skirt to mid-calf, padded shoulders,
pump dangling from a silk-stockinged toe,
eyeing the famous and infamous,
her sharp edges gelaming among the second-raters.

Did she attend services at St. Pat's
despise her Jewishness? I can't imagine her
with no retort amid the vestments and folderol.

I see her though at Bloomingdale's
intimidating salesgirls and doormen
who bundle purchases into a cab as she
strides from the revolving door, takes in the street scene,
one imperious eyebrow raised. Or strutting
down West 44th, cutting a swath, as she
mentally composes a column for The New Yorker.

How loneliness must have cloaked her,
between husbands,
alone in her rooms with, finally, only her little dog
for company. I'm amazed she never used
that glittering blade that flashed throughout her poetry
to prick a vein.

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