I have long been haunted by the Triangle Shirt-waist fire. Much has been written about this, and it certainly changed fire-regulations in New York. Just too late for the many, mostly girls, who died horrifically on that afternoon. I have written a few things about this fire over the years, none of them quite satisfactory. But I must keep trying. So today I have explored the anaphora form, in another, clumsy attempt, to honour those women.
TRIANGLE SHIRT-WAIST ANAPHORA
They struck for better pay and conditions
They struck a year before it happened
They met on the fire-escape landing
There they planned their strike
They worked on the Sabbath
They worked on the Jewish Sabbath
The Jewish Sabbath was also pay-day
They worked hard
They cut, they sewed, they ironed.
They worked for their families.
Their families from Italy and Germany and Russia.
They worked on the ninth floor
They worked surrounded by paper, thread, cloth.
Their machines were banked up next to each other
They chatted while they sewed, banked up next to each other.
They worked while machine oil soaked through the floor.
It struck, in the afternoon.
It struck when the room was full of girls
Working, banked up next to each other
It burnt through the thread
It burnt through the paper
It burnt through the cloth
It burnt through the floor soaked through with machine oil
They ran to the fire-escape
They ran to the water-hoses.
They scratched at the locked fire-escape
They held the dry water-hoses.
They burnt at their machines, banked up next to each other
They burnt in a pile by the fire-escape door
They burnt as they jumped from the ninth-floor windows
They leapt to the ground rather than burn
They leapt so that their families
From Italy, from Germany, from Russia
Could identify their bodies
They struck the cold pavement so hard
The fire-horses reared from the smell of blood.
They stuck the fire-escape so hard, collapsed and killed them
They were a load of cattle, that struck, that burnt, that died.
The youngest was fourteen.