DESIGNER SHIRTS

Alison Morse

© Divya Adusumilli 2013

© Divya Adusumilli 2013

A trendy shop in the neighborhood
hangs t-shirts in the window:
a panda with pistols;
the Mad Hatter singing;
“Keep Calm and Carry On”
“Charles Bukowski Told Me To Do It.”
Next to the display, a sign:
“all t-shirts made by artists;”
but inside each shirt, the label:
“Hanes/made in Bangladesh.”

What if Hanes, Gap, Calvin Klein,
Walmart, Hilfiger, and Penny’s
printed t-shirts paying tribute
to those Bangladeshi artists
who cut and sewed them.

On the front of a shirt:
a melted sewing machine;
on its back: rows of bodies,
burnt and wrapped in white cloth,
lying outside the burnt sweatshop.

A shirt with a soundtrack:
a young woman’s sobs
as she looks for her husband,
missing under the eight-story
warren of garment factories
collapsed on its workers.

A woman’s crushed and folded body
encircling a shirt with the words:
“I knew the factory was unsafe,
but the boss said ‘no pay
if you don’t show up.'”

The shirt showing a couple
sandwiched between fallen pillars,
blood tears dried on his face,
her neck, snapped broken
by a chunk of ceiling.
Caption: “Phantom Apparel.”

Shirt raining Jewish and Italian
immigrant girls, jumping
from the burning Triangle Shirtwaist factory
in New York City in 1911.
“What happens now,” asks this shirt,
“to the people who make our clothes?”

Alison croppedAlison Morse’s poems and stories have been published in the Water~Stone ReviewNatural BridgeRhino, Opium Magazine, and mnartists.org, among other journals and anthologies. In 2012, a short story of hers won a Tiferet Fiction Award. From 2011-13, she was a writer for the Women Peacemakers Program at the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice in San Diego. She also runs TalkingImageConnection (TIC), a reading series where poets and prose writers respond to visual art in Twin Cities galleries. She lives in Minneapolis.
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