Songs from the 2nd floor

My grandmother had a sing-song voice
and wore lipstick and Shalimar — pricey
but she never worked a day in her life
my mother swore on more than one occasion

In the alley of our Bronx building
I’d hear her singing
from her second-floor window
as she did house chores
(we lived on the first floor)

“La-di-dum,” she would croon
along to maybe “Sentimental Journey”
or perhaps an old Bing Crosby song
or “The Girl from Ipanema” as sung
by bossa-nova queen Astrud Gilberto

With its big dials and box-like form
her portable AM/FM radio
would go on through the better part
of the afternoon, song after song
so maybe that’s how she acquired a voice
with such gratifying inflections and poise

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