July 7, 2016

Three poems by Jessica Goody: “Unanswered Prayers” “War Declared” and “Liberty Ladies”

Jessica Goody writes for SunSations Magazine and The Bluffton Sun. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Reader’s Digest, The Seventh Wave, Really System, Event Horizon, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and The Maine Review. Her poem “Stockings” was awarded second place in the 2015 Reader’s Digest Poetry Competition.


Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25 - 1911


Unanswered Prayers

Their days are measured in stitches.
The rhythm of push, seam, snip
is their metronome, their timepiece.
Seven days a week they see neither sunrise nor sunset,
only a packet of needles and a basket of fabric scraps.

The sweatshop is a heated hell
of locked doors with melting knobs.
The shriek of steel reverberates
as the fire escape buckles
beneath the weight of panicked workers.

Shards of glass burst from the windowpanes
in the fierce heat.
A star of David at a girl’s throat
has been burnt into the skin,
leaving the flesh branded
in a last attempt to reach God.

In the rubble lay pieces of the lives of the dead:
a stray glove, pieces of scorched and broken wood,
a handkerchief, burnt to powder
but for the embroidered initials;
a monogram with which to identify the body,
and a rosary whose prayers went unanswered.

War Declared

The blue-eyed boys have gone off to war.
Those eyes are hollow now, rendered
robotic by shock and bitter memories,

their eyes blank and colorless, images
repeating, flashing in a Mobius strip of
noise, smoke, screams, blood, broken

bodies glazed like dying fish, stiffening
where they have fallen. An ocean of smoke
obscures the world, rendering it breathless

and blind, a permanent Blitz. The birds have
fallen silent, huddled in their nests like people
in a bomb shelter, whispering prayers punctuated

by explosions, bursts of red that might be flames,
fallout, a burning building, or the burst aneurism
of a body blown apart; the wet thuds of shattered

soldiers crushed beneath the rubble, stricken by
bomb or land mine like ants beneath shoe leather.
The Doppler effect cannot distinguish whether the
death rattle is the scream of the victims or the wind.

Liberty Ladies

Brave banners are wind-dashed and mud-stained,
and hat plumes hang sodden. She does not feel the

sleet, only the iron of her convictions. They are clad
in sashes like knights marching into battle; their
embroidered armor bearing the strident statements
of equality. Insolent women, refusing to be chattel.

Courtly gentlemen spit at the women to whom they
once bowed. Insolent women, in classrooms, on picket
lines, in settlement houses, handcuffed to iron gates.
Their decorous upbringing has not taught them the
etiquette of rebellion: true gentility is remaining stoic
in the face of brutality. Defying convention, they have
forefeited the protection of their husbands and society.

Names are scratched into the cinderblock walls above
a soiled, bedbug-ridden mattress only slightly softer
than the cold concrete floor. White-gloved women twist
nervous handkerchiefs. Their fear tastes cold, metallic,
like water in a tin prison cup. Metallic sounds punctuate
anxious silence: the warden’s keys ring with every step,
like a pocketful of coins. The rhythm of his boot heels
drums the length of the halls. The price of freedom is fear.
The cell slams shut with a clang, a reverberating sound. 

“Liberty Ladies” and “Unanswered Prayers” were previously featured in Issue III of The Seventh Wave, while “War Declared” appeared in the Summer 2014 edition of HeART.

~Jessica Goody

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