Tuesday, July 11, 2006

March 25, 1911

“One girl held back after all the rest and clung
to the window casing until the flames from the
window below crept up to her and set her clothing
on fire. Then she jumped far over the net...”
-- eyewitness report, Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

she had worn swallow wings
pinned to her hair,
a whole dark sparrow poised
and fixed on the crown of her hat

she had paid a months wages
for the silk blouse the exact
color of bluebirds hanging
above her broken mattress

when she slept through the chattering
of her three roommates, she ran
and ran and ran in the fields
of her father’s farm, waving her arms,
but she never got more then ten feet
off the ground, sometimes her bare feet
brushing the tops of the apple trees

now is her chance
poised at the open window
her long skirt smoking at the hem

the fire moaning and tearing behind her
the screams have almost stopped

the firemen with their too short hoses
15 feet below on useless ladders

some girls hold hands
as they step out
into the air

but this one, as in a dream,
closes her eyes and
takes to the sky alone


dick jones said...

Powerful & affecting - the more so for its restraint & the distance of the narrative voice from the event.

I'm glad to have made this discovery quite by chance!

Christine said...

Thanks, Mr. Jones.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Strong imagery here. The closing stanzas are so right for this.

As Bjorn said...

Such a sad story with an ending of grace and beauty. It is perhaps our greatest strength as a species. That we find the art in the terrible truths of being.

Christine said...

Thanks for the visit and the comment, Mr. 10,000. Yes, the ending was the hardest!