Archive for June, 2009

Sisters In The Flames by Carol Tarlen

June 8, 2009

“spectators saw again and again pitiable companionships
formed in the instant of death–girls who placed their arms
around each other as they leaped. In many cases their clothing
was flaming or their hair flaring as they fell.
from “The Triangle Fire.”
The New York World, March 26, 1911

bent over the machine
your hair a mass of red curls
like flames I said
my words extinguished
by the wailing motors
we never spoke
together we sewed
fine linen shirtwaists
for fine ladies we worked
in our coarse gowns and
muslin aprons 12 hours
in dark dank rooms
mine floors above the street
our fingers worked
the soft cloth
our coarse hands
fed the machines

I saw you once in the elevator
going down going home
our eyes laughed
when I whispered too loud
strands of red hair falling
over our cheek and neck I
touched our red rough hand
my shoulders ached
in my coat pocket
for Papa for Mama
for the rent I need
a new skirt I need
a day in the sun
i need to unlock the doors
of this factory
I’m still young
I whispered and you laughed
because of course
we all were young

of the flames
take my hand
I will hold you in the cradle
of my billowing skirt
in the ache of my shoulders
the center of my palm our sisters already dance
on the sidewalk nine
floors below the fire
is leaping through our thighs
Sister together now fly
the sky is an unlocked door
and the machines are burning


Believe In My Hands (Which Are Ending) • by Carol Tarlen

June 8, 2009

For Silvio Rodriguez of Cuba
at the end of my hands
is the face of a child
whose right eye is planted
in the center of her pale cheekbone.
At the edge of my fingers
pacing beneath a movie marquee,
is an old man in a red cap on whose
shoulder blossoms a picket sign.
The rain he stands in defines
the limits of my hands. Still,
I trust in the slick wet pavement
where my body ends,
but where my imagination
explodes into white carnations.
I believe in thick, black dirt
that sifts through my closed fist.
I believe in the child whose
deformed face is a luminous moon.
I believe in the hot sun where
a revolution was named for a poet.
I trust in the mystery of future.
which is always beginning.