Nights I can’t sleep, I think about the tailor’s
three sons and how twelve people lived and worked
in a three-room apartment meant for four when
the Lower East Side was the most crowded place

on the planet. What was it they did? The cutting or basting
or sewing, right here, the finishing or pressing over there
while the clock’s heavy ticking kept them sane, insane?
Afternoons they’d elbow through the teeming streets to catch

some air, some news, but after a long day, what else had they
to look forward to but a bowl of soup and then to sleep
on the red velvet sofa which looked, from a distance,
more lavish, and though cherished, was so narrow

it is hard to imagine enough room for even one young boy
to sit down. I think of the sons because when night came
at last, and the whirr of machines had flown out the window,
the clock’s ticking rocking like a lullaby, they would

lay down their heads side by side on the sofa,
rest their throbbing feet on wooden chairs and lie, suspended,
to sleep the sleep of the young and the exhausted,
dreaming their immigrant dreams in thin air.

First published in Poetry Review