Two Pictures of My Grandparents: 1914


Her feet stitch the sidewalks
of the Garment District.
It is as grey
in those distant stories
as the shawls
of Middle European women.

Her fingers are thin,
polished bone spools.


The sun peers down on him
through coal-smoke clouds.
It squints like the Asian eye
of a Slovak steelworker.

His breath is hesitant
from burned lungs.
It whitens the throat
of the winter sky.


My Uncles do not recognize
their parents in these words.
The images are as strange to them
as that language they still remember
is to me, a tongue

which never gathered money
though it warmed them
as they shared it, the one fire
they could always afford.

:: Joseph Bruchac, Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life

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