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Once monthly, the New York City Writing Project celebrates the teacher-as-writer by publishing works of poetry and prose written by its teachers. If you are interested in submitting your work to NYCWP Voices, please read the submissions guidelines and submit your work by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On April 17, 2015, the New York City Writing Project and Metropolitan Museum of Art co-hosted a Writing Marathon in the Met’s historic galleries. Participants drew inspiration from a variety of works of art. The poem below, New Voices, by Carla Cherry, was inspired by the painting Tables for Ladies (Edward Hopper, 1930, oil on canvas).
This couple is here every Thursday night
He hangs her coat, her hat; his coat, his hat
They order the meatloaf special
Leave a dime after the bill
Every night there are bottles of sparkling water
adorning this buffet table
grapefruit arranged in a line
fruit basket in the middle with a sole pineapple, oranges, apples
surrounded by heads of lettuce.
I serve plate after plate, balanced adroitly on tray against bosom
Do they ever think about the burn in my back
from ferrying fruit and meals from kitchen to table
or how my waist itches
from tying this apron’s bow as tight as my smile?
That new cashier complains
about her aching feet. She stands in the same spot.
Taps out figures and gives back change all day, into night, as
I pocket my clinking tips each trip from table to kitchen.
We women got the vote.
Cut our hair and hemlines
Swung our hips to the beat and smoked in public.
I went from scrubbing floors in my mama’s kitchen
and ironing my father’s shirts
to this new burn in my back
CARLA CHERRY is a native New Yorker, veteran English teacher, and poet. She self published a book of poetry, Gnat Feathers and Butterfly Wings.