FACTORY DREAMS: PRINCESS PEGGY, 1924
My grandma, once young Jennie Naomi Diamond,
Ellis Island lined, processed in leavings, arrivals,
is scrapping through Brooklyn,
fat chintz flowers trailing her every move: America, America,
she steps, bundled in fabric, the shtetl life behind,
small rag rugs in the kitchen, bordered in
Latvian flowers, the color of farm fields, of wheat,
of eleven brothers’ eyes, behind, behind her, far from
American sidewalks, movement, forward,
across America, interfacings, lines, patterns, fields
of gingham and calico stitched to pleated rows, pearled corn,
sweet America, dressed up pretty for Jennie,
her hem falling, her father’s button, pocketed
for luck, for new Midwestern dreams,
a factory, a job, a place,
the luxury of a brown bench,
to sit, to sew, to treadle up and down, up and down,
to say, I work at Princess Peggy Factory as a seamstress;
I have arrived, America: up and down, over and across,
the stop and go of lined roads, seams, the sudden
curve of a scallop, darted moves, button-snapped,
one piece, America, a house dress,
checked, piped in red, ready for the morning,
for the chiffon yellow of an apron, next,
gathered, cinched-in sunshine.
Jennie’s shadowed fingers run up
on stitches, secure the belt, the sectioned pockets,
the remembered button, luck-tucked,
finding its thread, the needle’s eye:
A small space to impose, Made in America.
SPILLED: TOMATO TALK
red fingernails, mocking my skin,
pull and snap,
my green cord cut
by silver, sheared:
no lifeline to black earth,
only the palm-squeeze
of unknown flesh.
In deep cupped darkness,
the acid of this strange hand
moves me to remembrance,
the circumference of my being,
diameter dimensions, garden-patched,
connections to vine holiness,
how in my round, perfect world,
there was no snip, no juice sound, seeping.
surface of surrender,
coldness on my sunburned skin:
the first slice, then the second,
flattened, handled, fanned,
served as summer’s pleasure,
forked tongues reveal
my inner life, once rounded, full, now spilled.
TERRE HAUTE SUMMER
Hunched, my grandfather sifts
the semi-sweet soil, crisscrossing lines
of old country roots, newly landed hands.
He’s framed in my mind:
unearthing a garden-boxed carrot,
true-to-life orange, yet deep, too-soon rusted.
Turning, he says, come, look;
this is for you, overlaying my small pink palm
with his dirt-dusted offering, then his brown hand.
This will make you see, will fill you full of sweetness.
Running, handed off sunfire kept close, I release
the sudden rush of the green coiled hose, only to hear,
No washing! The dirt will keep you strong.
I heed; I bite, orange and black, orange and black,
until the green sprig of day finds my mouth, uprooted.