Gas Lamp, 1893

In brownstone Boston down on old Milk Street,
up two gray flights, near the gas lamp, the tailor
waits glumly for the midwife. August heat
has worn the woman out. Amid the squalor
she looks around the bed, clutching a cape
she brought from London as a child. It’s dawn
and dirty. The dark tailor wants to escape
to his cramped shop. The woman’s sheets are drawn
below her waist. She isn’t hollering now.
Her eyes are dark and still; blood on her thumbs.
Her name is Bessie. No. I’m guessing. How, 
untold, am I to know? Hot day has worn
into the room. The midwife finally comes.
Grandmother bleeds to death. My father’s born. 


From Mexico In My Heart: New And Selected Poems (Carcanet, 2015) by Willis Barnstone. Copyright © 2015 by Willis Barnstone. Used with the permission of the author.