at the bottom of my lingerie drawer,
an antique, skin-toned wisp of silk
trimmed with lace and snapping shut
in complicated ways.
A frayed label says
Triangle Shirtwaist Company.
I cannot remember when or how
it came to be here.
I cannot see this confection without
seeing smoke, locked doors and fiery dives
through cruel, unmothering space.
Whose hands cut the silk,
sewed stitches so fine?
Did she hang by a thread for days
to die, or survive,
a wild-eyed girl-child?
This garment I’ll never wear
sears me, sighing
from its perfumed vault.
Maria Terrone’s most recent book is American Gothic, Take 2 (Finishing Line Press). She is currently at Queens College and has been at CUNY since 1990.
March 25, 2011, was the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, in which 146 women workers were killed. Memorial events were organized, in New York City and around the country, to remember the disaster and the movements it inspired.