The Ladies of Carroll Gardens
Sitting in circles of collapsible lawn-chairs
On street corners under the open umbrella
Of the sun, they have come in black dresses.
Traffic fears them. Each with the feet of a sparrow,
They flaunt their frailness in the cross-walks,
Along the sidewalks, and the young men move.
Even in Brooklyn, the sky makes room for them.
Their hands are brutal. They hack with gossip.
They point and pinch. They mean to hurt the sun,
And because she has waited all night to join them
In her little corner shrine of stone, they draw
Our Lady into their circle of crackling laughter.
To them, she has opened her ceramic hands.
To them, the black pupils of her eyes do not shut.
To them, she listens hard. And so, amid traffic
And skateboards, they hang about her neck
The cheap paper garlands she likes
And ask for old, neighborly favors. Why not?
Like her, they were virgins once, sailing
From Palermo, Catania, Siracusa, Mazard,
Each girl carrying a betrothed on a card:
A black and white face she fanned at the heat
Until Gibraltar passed and, undressed in blue,
The Atlantic advanced on them in a bowery of veils.
From there, each leaned upon a rail and watched
The sea until it ended with this grey low city:
Brooklyn a dirty Egypt crumbling to endure.
Like this, they came to this corner of the world.
Like this, they will, one day, rise and return,
Passing behind gold-lettered window panes
That announce: “We Ship Internationally.”
Crated in satin, sealed in the darkness of the New World,
They will return unto the hills of the Old.