My mother said that I had a beautiful smile
and the younger boy would remember that when asked
about me years and years after that visit
when life and being a maid had used up my voice
and like those who lived uptown I had forgotten my surname.
They did not say “squalid” and I forgave their poise
the way Mother and Jesus had said a lady should
in spite of being invited into houses to clean them
until the music God once let me sing
was bleached out (bleach burns more than willing hands)
and I couldn’t read the sheet music dropped by my bed.