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Her Words After the Fire, by Alice Rogoff
Date 11/03/29/17:09

Her Words After the Fire
by Alice Rogoff

If I could speak to you
what would I say?
So many long days
as if married to a sewing machine.
Clothes made by the millions.

You needed us,
the workers.
Instead of music,
the machine’s voice,
searing our ears,
until the night
when my sisters
fell into sleep
wishing for windows and air.

But instead of air,
fire was choking the factory.
We could have fought,
but everything was
wrong that day,
the doors locked,
the fire escape broken,
and instead of dancing
like young people do,

2. Her Words After the Fire

we were surging
to a window
to breathe,
to find life,
to escape, escape, escape,
to find death.

I think I heard my mama
cry as I descended
into the red darkness.
I remembered a little village
outside of Minsk,
a cool river,
a tiny synagogue.
I’d forgotten about God
in America.

Mama stood below
the nine stories.
Which one was her daughter?
Hadn’t we just been marching
to fix the fire escape?
To get shorter hours?
Fair wages?
To join a union?

3. Her Words After the Fire

We came to America with hope.
Leaving wars.
Leaving discrimination.
Leaving grandmother
who called out

Beyond a border now.

Married forever
to the earth,
to the Evergreens cemetery.

Frances Perkins
looked up and saw the Triangle Fire.
The ashes fell on her shoulders.
She never forgot.
The New Deal was born that day.

Let me hear
The International Ladies Garment Workers,
The Amalgamated Clothing Workers,
UNITE, UNITE HERE, Workers United
marching and singing
not forgetting

4. Her Words After the Fire

a little girl from Berazino,
Thai women in a
sweatshop in Los Angeles.

Not forgetting
the Puerto Rican
and African-American
garment workers
of the 1950s and 1960s,
the Chinese
garment workers
of 2011.

The exploited,
and burned in Bangladesh.

The workers who make
clothes for the millions.

Our daughters, our children.

Let the water reach them.

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