Triangle Shirtwaist

by: Molly Sutton Kiefer

Women who escaped for a promise. One even gave Vesuvius the slip.

Veer off to Greenwich Village. Grate ticks by,
tinder freight. A plum. A calm. Sheer the ferry’s waist.

Needle prance, your empty pocket. Subject to rhythms
of the machine. Foreman’s rubber-tipped sneak a peek.

Those thread-cones, make them faster. Mistakes meant hunger.
You know. So he locks the door. So he can look inside.

Ribbons as fat as hats, guild a key. Whispers among the machines.
Clara had six broken ribs when she said strike. We all stood up and
walked out
. Whores can be hired too, thumb a nose.

Mink brigades meant safety nests, those coppers showed
clubbing caution. Those brave girls. Beckon back.
No union in the ash building.

Tip a cigarette, waft and then, that flame dawdles.
Death’s slow tease. Crush a boulevard. The building’s spindles
cast in an alleyway. We watched them burn. Falling and fall-out.

Ribbons of flame. We still had to play the hoses upon them.
Narrow nose of fire.

The women were swatched in white, put in troughs.
The women were waiting to be told where to go.

I’ve looked for her, I cannot tell.
The face of a woman no longer a woman.
I knew her by her hair; I had braided it for her that morning.