Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Closing Time

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
piecemeal
work into
worn knit
purses,
mentally
noting
items to
purchase at
the market
on the way
home.

At the head
of the pay 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
if the infection
of a cut finger
would heal and
that 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 earthly 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 sight from Cornell University.

A list of the fatalities can be found here.
Fatalities of Triangle Fire.

Oakland
3/25/11
jbm

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March 25, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Bravo! Elegant presentation and poignant remembrance of blessed mothers, sisters, daughters and the others. May they be found alive and joyous at the table of the Greatest feast.

    Comment by I n I | March 28, 2012


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