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After Hours at the Garment Factory

By Amatan Noor

Let’s inhale some fresh air
Its botanical river wafting into our nostrils
Alas, the sky has been seething crimson
for half a century
Alas, the air is a stale cigarette of
burnt toxins
Alas, we are wedged laterally
like scales of a bushy eyebrow and
stratified upwards like the lack of atmosphere
Alas, we have not had a smoke break since the revolution
Between the rust of labor and the
girls etching warning signals onto
their merchandise
I will admit
I have become

As if they are the true victims
As if we are props in the means of production
In their assembly line?
How insidious!
We are the motors, baby!
Stitching ambiguity into
a vision for eyes
to feast on
And to think they get to leave after
a sixteen-hour shift?
So what if the crumbling is
imminent and
At least they
witness its

We were the ones planted in
anguish distinguishing
the staccato of conch
shell bangles
one after another in
Shankhari Bazar–*
Buildings cascading
into rubble;
Brother seeking
dead brother;
Mother waiting
for dead son
never to return home
It could have been them–
confined in the catastrophic echo

One day I will take a nap so indolent
no mechanic will know how to
twist my bolts!

And would you believe me
if I told you
across several seas
Nostrand avenue belongs
to whoever puffs their chest out the largest
to claim their rent is the highest
while the neck-tattooed barista complains
his lungs have got the least amount of air
because his sky wore a nightgown
of rage a couple times in June
and his smoke break is too short
and it is the unhoused who
keep receding his hairline
because had the same man not
entered places panhandling while hungry
he wouldn't have to surveil him
on and off the clock
at a business that is not his
at a neighborhood that is not his
in a city that was never his
on a street named after
a man who owned 43 people
all the while a long line
around the block
recycles patrons
who grieve the
for what it used to be
while machines
of latest models
prepare their

and the Bay Of Bengal swallows us whole?


*Declared a site of heritage in Old Dhaka, Shankhari Bazar remains a densely populated area with a majority of Hindu residents and unrepaired housing infrastructure. In 2004, a building collapsed, killing 19 and injuring 11 people severely. Many victims belonged to the same families. 



Listen as Amatan Noor reads After Hours at the Garment Factory.

Added: Wednesday, March 20, 2024  /  Used with permission.
Amatan Noor
Photo by Tamanna Islam.

Amatan Noor is a Bangladeshi poet residing in Lenapehoking (present day Brooklyn). She is the author of the chapbook Not Guilty (Finishing Line Press, 2023). Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems can be found on No, Dear, Dialogist, and Thimble Literary Magazine, culminating in a Brooklyn backyard of vegetables and spunk. She lives in Clinton Hill and is in an ongoing love affair with Fort Greene Park.

Image Description: Amatan looks slightly to her left pensively as she stands against a brick wall. She is wearing a black turtleneck with her hair parted in the middle. The bright sun beams on her face.

Other poems by this author