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Written by Timothy Sexton
The narrator opens by saying she lives in a doorway between two rooms. That description is metaphorical, of course; she is not some strange creature capable of living within the constricted space afforded by a doorway. She is unidentified, although it is certainly not out of bounds to suspect that she is the poet herself within an autobiographical verse. The metaphor suggests that she is equally at home within the room populated by beige, professional woman and the room populated by significantly more boisterous Mexican women. Which means that the narrator is probably an academic—most likely a literature professor—of Mexican heritage. The poem also indicates that she retains close ties with her Mexican heritage, but that heritage rarely crosses over into her professional life.
The Careful Women
The professional women who occupy the room on one side of the doorway of the narrator’s life are marked by the sounds of clicking. That clicking extends from authentic sounds like that made when cups of black coffee are carefully placed back upon surfaces to the more symbolic clicking sound made by the topics they discuss. Since they are described as careful women in beige suits, one can also imagine the clicking sound made by sensible high heels and the keyboards of their computers as they discuss topics common to the teaching profession like curricula, tenure and budgetary concerns. Although the only indication of their color or ethnicity is a reference to their smiles as beige, the overriding sense one gains from the imagery is that these women are better represented by their professional than any singular cultural affiliation.
The primary element separating the Senoras from the Careful Women is that they are Mexican. While the women in room opposite the academics are quite clearly delineated according to a shared cultural heritage, the Careful Women are not so explicitly defined. Thus, the key trait differentiation the inhabitants of the two rooms is something akin to emotional climate. The Careful Women seem to be peculiarly joyless; they barely even smile. The Senoras, by contrast, laugh robustly. Both rooms serve hot coffee, but the Senoras sweeten theirs for enjoyment while the Careful Women look to beverage more for sustenance than gratification. The Senoras are, to put it plainly, filled with the warmth that comes from a love of life, while the Careful Women are so cold as to become part of the machinery that clicks with efficiency.
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