Shirtwaist Elegy

There is an ache like a shield across the place
where my heart should be, fleshy like a fist
or callused like fingers and embroidered

with floss. Needles track a path around its contours,
their swish adjusting as they push and retract.
See the crown of the oak burning, brighter

than a furnace at the factory window. Hear
the treadle’s slap, the blouses spool paler
than spring blossoms and thin as linen,

from under the hands of girls. Whipstitch and chain,
darts that gather the billows in. The shirt I’m wearing
is made in Bangladesh, Turkey, or the Philippines,

where clotheslines crisscross sky: sleeves and bodices
flail in salt-laced wind— weft of signatures whose
facing edges I’ll button and wear against my skin.

Luisa A. Igloria
10 22 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

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