Poetry: Allen Street, 1903

It’s dark in the basement—
copper workers hammering
don’t notice when daylight

is stolen by the El train
shooting like a rocket
overhead in Seventh Avenue,

their Ladino is tinged with Syrian
Turkish, Rumanian
like spices on vine leaves—

outside Jewish whores
wear shade like veils—
refuse to work on Yom Kippour

when they pray in the temple
on days when they mend men
to multiples of ten

for three times the money
they’d earn in a sweatshop,
they count their blessings

and eat sambusaks
in The Rose of Syria
remembering sunlight.

 

Poetry Editor Alicia Ostriker comments:
Michaelson’s poem brings to life a notorious locale on New York’s Lower East Side that was once the Jewish red light district, and was called “the street where the sun never shines” because of the elevated train tracks passing through. Yes, it’s all part of our history. Sambuskas were Middle Eastern turnover pastries

Need More Lilith?

Sign up now for a weekly batch of Jewish feminist essays, news, events--and incredible stories and poems from 40 years of Lilith.