MacDougal Street: Old-Law Tenements
by Anne Winters

We’re aware in every nerve end of our tenement’s 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 lived in its clauses and parentheses, that drew up steep stairways and filled the brown airwells with eyebrowed

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

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.


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