“Macdougal Street Old-Law Flat”

Listen to Anne Winters reading this poem. We’re aware in every nerve end of this tenement of hand-mortared Jersey brick, the plumbing’s dripping dew-points, the electric running Direct, and on each landing four hall-johns fitted

to the specifics and minima of the 1879
Tenement Housing Act. We live in its clauses
and parentheses, that laid out steep stairways
and filled brown airwells with eyebrowed

windows. Unwhistling, the midwinter radiator
lists in its pool of rust. A lightcord winds
through its light chain; from its plasterless ceiling-slats

topples a roach, with its shadow. Downstairs, our Sicilian widow
beats the cold ribs with a long-handled skillet,
and faucets drum in twenty old-law flats.