Triangle Factory

Hook and eye, a girl is cut from a shirtwaist,
sewn up at the lids and temples, pulled
like thread through muslin through the workweek.
The earliest children are caught at her feet
in knots and dismissed without pay, or piled
under halves of woolen coats while the inspectors
look the crime scene the other way. Hook and eye.
A girl is fastened into a girdle, clipped to a garter
She works harder—she has seven sisters at home
and none of them pretty enough to be a free bride,
all bent and smudged near the face. A girl
nicks a dowry in bits of lace, is dismissed.

A dowry. A girl is locked to her machine,
her mechanical husband, a treasure chest
of linens and doilies, makes a hole where a button
can go through. Takes up a hem, splits a seam.
Hooked to her wooden chair in the dim, dusty
light, a girl’s eye is on her stitching, doesn’t see
the fire begun in corners, how it catches up
a skirt or drape, and the doors and windows
barred—she can’t go through. Soon every dye
is red, every bobbin a bit of coal. Hook and eye,
she is burned in a wad of Italians and Jews,
flammable as cotton, engulfed by her dowry.

Arielle Greenberg’s first book, Given, was published in 2002 by Verse Press. She is an editor at How2, an online journal of women’s poetry and poetics, and teaches at Bentley College.