[35] For the Silent One, Michael Harmon

 

Off Getty Square
on a dark side street
through a door between two shops
up a narrow flight of stairs
and down a dim hall
another door
to a large room with no light fixtures
no carpet on the floor
one window only open to the outside air
no pictures on the walls no mirrors
nothing but a small cheap clock
on which any expression of progress
its pair of hands resists.
In that room
aisles of old black sewing machines
each with a miniature light
focused on its throat plate
needle clamp presser foot
each machine on its own dark stand
made of sturdy wood
and in the collective glow from all those little lights
with the sound of incessant sporadic pounding all around
the ladies work.
Mostly older ones
like my grandmother
the mother of my mother
who introduces me
the child of her child
to each woman she works with
one by one as most seem glad
to have a four-year-old boy
be among them
who they could tease and flirt with
in a grandmotherly way
and ease their eyes and clear their minds
of spinning spools and stitching needles
balance wheels and bobbin winders
the relentless attention on thread and fabric
to have someone brighten up the room awhile,
maybe even for the silent one
who never smiles or turns her head,
and seems too busy snipping thread.

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