CHAIM MICHAELSON 1928
Stranded in your suit, Ellis Islandprods you through a pen
where vowels escapefrom a jutting jaw
that gets smashed flatby your incomprehension
no lice or scurvyjust a foreign name
so they stamp you Jim on your entry visa.
The girl in tatters unfurls herself
over urchins posing on sweatshop steps.
The photographer from Time (an issue
about poverty on Lower East Side)
promises to show them but doesn’t come back.
Readers in armchairs on Manhattan Broadway
can’t help shouting That girl is cute !
The delivery boyawash with cold air, is rollingthe frozen bales.
The baster’s threademerges from the chalk trackand dips back in
like the dolphin he sawin Mid-Atlanticon the passage over.
He tacks the suitkeeping things togetheruntil the finisher
unpicks his stitches. With handsheavy as his twenty pound iron,the presser steams the suit.
Soup and yiddish are strong as sisalwhile outside, in Lower East SideAmericans say U boy and are very tall.To them the baster is like his suita thread awayfrom going hungry or home.
The finisher’s stitch streaks over the white linechalked by the baster
A racehorseneck to neckwith a Singer machine
her own lifea hang of rawneither cut nor tacked
searching for a pattern.
The twenty pound ironhas steamed
his fungiform handwith vagaries,
black and white notesstroked by slim fingers,
rose poisedbetween index and thumb-
Friday night flowerfor a woman
with cool skinlike shade in summer.
THE BOSS AND HIS WIFE
The wife stirs all four seasonsin the thick of her soup(a pinch of primrose,
summer hayfields, Odessa autumnsnow on steppes) her workers taste onions,potatoes, carrots.
The boss can count but can’t writethe officer who laughedwhen he put a cross at immigration
should see him now.