Friday, September 09, 2005

She sells Swiss watches

Lavigny 8
For Sindiwe Magona, South African writer

by Mila D. Aguilar

She sells Swiss watches,
This woman reeded by age.
We had walked to Aubonne,
Two coloreds,
One black and one brown,
And found a shop selling
Watches, Swiss-made,
But cheap enough to wear
Without fear of getting
Arms snapped off.

The door was open,
There was nobody in,
So I called out
With the few French words
I know: "Bon jour!"
And she came out
With a smile that,
Though not ear to ear,
Was candid enough
Not to condescend.

I would not have bought
A watch for my gradddaughter
Or a Swiss knife for my son
Had she been other than
Unassuming. Do you accept
Credit cards, I asked,
And she said, "Oui oui,"
In the usual Swiss way.
So I chose my two gifts,
One after the other.

It was her manner of wrapping
That struck me and, I guess,
Bored my African companion
And translator, she with
Her native rhythmic sense.
I would not have understood
Yet would have accepted it,
Being Filipino, apt to take things
As they are, then leave all
To her Lord and Master.

I was a nurse, she said--
Wistfully, I imagined--
But my husband had two shops,
One in this house, the other
Across the street, so I had
To tend one--as she
Folded the wrapper
Ever so carefully
As if she were applying
Bandage on a wound.

After what seemed like an hour
She finally managed
To place her shop sticker
On the ribbons
With her finely gnarled
White hands.
I could have made
A short story out of it
But the image of her
Standing there,

Serious and honest,
Is good enough for me.

September 9, 2005
11:30-2:15 pm

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