Unfelt Flames of Kate Leone

The beginning and the end
are the same moment for me
today when the flames around us
engulf the unfelt flames in my heart
and my future, my dreams and tomorrows—
and God, us and them—
and everything I know—
in a moment, turns to ash.

I am on fire—aflame!
for life, for the butcher boy
and for my expected $7
earned from my 52 loyal hours
spent cutting shirtwaists no longer in fashion
for ladies I will never know
and as the lady I will never be
in a moment, turns to ash.

Saturday night—and freedom!
approaches with the fire that blisters
the blisters that I fussed over this morning
on my tired end-of-the-week fingers.
Ignorant, I blindly wasted this day.
I let it spin by, unseen, my eyes glued on the end
where I follow the crowd, not to death, but to pay that
in a moment, turns to ash.

I have pined for the moment where I can be on fire
eager for the promised kiss that now wastes
poised on my lips, parted not from a sigh, but a cry
as the unfelt flames of my youth are consumed
by the conflagration that surrounds us all.
Dawn rose with its usual promise of life
never hinting at an end at the end of a day that
in a moment, turns to ash.

NOTE: Kate Leone was one of the youngest victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York. On March 25, 1911, at the end of a six-day, 52-hour workweek, a fire broke out on the eighth floor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory building near closing time. Six hundred workers were in the building. Almost all women, 129 workers died that day. Because of this tragedy, worker rights moved to political importance and vastly improved.


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