Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sky Stained with Smoke

tenth floor and roof                                                                                                                                                   

Blinded by smoke and tears
an Italian prayer on her lips,
she stumbles, catching her shin
on the  Green Street stairs.
A rough hand grabs her arm
hauls her to her feet.
"Tessie, move!" her rescuer says,
or she thinks he says, his words
are nothing like her Papa's.

He leads her and others up
not down, to a rooftop
where the sky breaks through grey air,
blue stained with smoke.
At last she can breathe
she looks at the faces of the others,
searching and not finding.
The next-door building's roof
is too far above this one
and Tessie wonders if
they have come here to die.
Then someone lowers a ladder
over the side.
Her burned hands throb as she climbs.

They all flood into this building, a school,
with flame free stairwells,
 but it is not until NYU students,
jabbering in English,
have led her to the streets
full of watchers pale with horror
that she realizes.
She asks, haltingly,
"Where is Vincenzia? Please,
she was on the ninth floor."
No one answers
as another body,
shirtwaist gleaming in the sun,


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