Closing Time

Closing Time

A Poem by riskrapper
"

Triangle Shirt Waist Company Fire

"











The end of

the six day

work week

blessedly

arrived for

the weary

seamstresses.


The thought

alone

returned

dexterity

to fingers

numbed

by the

monotony

of repetitive

motion and

eased the

incessant

ache of

lower backs

and stiffened

shoulders.


The

exhausted

women

would soon

deposit their

subsistence

wages for

piece meal

work into

worn knit

purses,

mentally

noting

items to

purchase at

the market

on the way

home.


At the head

of the line

stood the

bumptious

paymaster

barking at the

compliant women

to keep in line

and keep in mind

any honorariums

due him.


The workers,

youngest

to the oldest

counted the

tokens

in hand to

discern

the weeks

approximate

payout.


Lack of

math skills,

the uncertainty of

unjust deductions

and poor command

of English

made net pay

calculations

impossible

to deduce.


Passing time

in the pay line

the swelling

sound

of trilling

voices rolled

along the line.


Wise

Yiddish

axioms

and Italianate

passions joined

to bespeak

the ecstasies of

the human

condition.


The strange

hybrid dialect

filling the room

busily hailed

the coming

day of rest,

blessed

the faces of

kissed children,

imagined

the warmth given

from a lump

of coal,

explored

the bumpy feel

of hardened

scabs,

sounded hope

for a cloudless

Sunday,

expressed

remorse over

calloused hands

and the hope

that they could

become soft

and youthful again.


One woman

with a swollen jaw

mouthed an

anguished dread

of rejoining a

violent husband.


A buoyant

Rose,

with glittering

eye,

whispered

about the joy of a

potential courtship

with a distant cousin;

while the

bawdy laughs

of a randy group

of union maids

imagined

the luxury of

a Saturday night

bath and amorous

encounters with

broad shouldered

lovers.


One thick legged

woman hummed

happily as she imagined

picking up a ham-bone for

the soup kettle.


A freckled faced girl

and a mid-aged

German woman each

tearfully fretted over

the ritual turnover

of their wages

to a disabled father

and drunkard husband.


The hope of a

speedy and safe

delivery of a child

was prayed for by a

big busted mother of four,

while another worried

that the infection

of a cut finger

would heal and

her home bound

children afflicted with

terminal hunger

will have some bread

tonight and

porridge tomorrow.


The outbreak of the

fire changed all

their day dreams

and concerns

into frightful

screams,

nightmarish

death leaps

and eternal rest

for 146 workers

of the Triangle

Waist Company

on March 25, 1911.


May their

small knit purses

be filled with the

pleasant dreams

they wished for

themselves and others

as divine compensation

for their earthy labors

and may

they find a restful

peace in an

eternity of Sundays

enjoyed in the

company of

family,

lovers

and

friends.


Selah


You Tube Music:


Triangle Memorial Concert


You Tube:

American Experience



Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Waist Company fire in New York City. It killed 146 people the vast majority immigrant woman who worked at the company. The Triangle Fire is a seminal event in the US labor movement that lead to the recognition of labor unions as vehicles for workers rights and social justice. More on the Triangle Fire can found here on this wonderful website from Cornell University.


A list of the fatalities can be found here.

Fatalities of Triangle Fire.


Oakland

3/25/11

jbm

© 2012 riskrapper


Author's Note

riskrapper
in remembrance of May Day

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Added on May 2, 2012
Last Updated on May 2, 2012
Tags: labor unions, women, workers rights