Devotion: The Garment District

By Bruce Smith b. 1946 Bruce Smith
In bed as the machinery of morning begins, indistinguishable
the subterranean turbines of the A train from the jet engine
as it gins the clouds, rips and reseams the length of dungaree
on its way to Pittsburgh (with the terrible and subtle cargoes,
with ashes and a cat under the seat) from the pulleys
of the service elevators from the baffled sound across the alley
of the hand-iron press and the sewing machine motors whirring
bobbins that stitch together the hot properties of Seoul   
      and the suburbs
and the idiot village of Chelm, needle the veronica   
      and the Buddha robe
and the sateen for spring. I looked over at her. Her skin a warp
of Christ and a weft of meat. All night she had hauled me
and the boy and the smoky, feckless men I was across
the fens and stretches of mesquite through the tunnels
and delivered me to my misery and the laborious knots of the sheets
I wound myself in. And she was exhausted from Eros and swollen
from anger. She could stand to put on a few pounds. I could see it
in her ribs. Before I would marry my restlessness to her terror,
before the crushes and wages could be made into our equity, before
the endlessness would end in spinning jennies and sleaze   
      and the noise
of a fleet of vehicles with tinted windows testing   
      the evacuation routes,
I would cut, then peel, then dice, then caramelize some onions
before she wasted away to nothing.

Source: Poetry (January 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2008
 Bruce  Smith


Originally from Philadelphia, Bruce Smith is the author of several books of poems, including The Other Lover (2000), a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Influenced by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, Smith’s poetry moves like jazz, incorporating images and narratives into a startling, musically unified whole. In a 2007 interview, Smith explained his poetry’s aspiration to song: “When the language . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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