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The Tallest Building in the World (1913)
by Cath Nichlos
Not a hard interview, no, I was chosen
because I’m five foot four,
shorter than him that owns this place.
We’re all blonde too,
and wear white gloves, a smart uniform.
Mr Woolworth likes to see me
close the doors, press the buttons.
I like to sew at home;
I have small hands and a neat way
with my fingers (I come
from a family of weavers). The lifts,
they say, have triple safety features,
and stop to within an eighteenth
of an inch on every floor.
I’m the spider plumbing depths
between a girdered web. Here,
there’s such precision. I think of
a shuttle, zooming back and forth,
crossing the weft of each floor,
filling in the picture of an empire
built on dimes and cents. It’s a
fairy-tale palace for the 20th century,
with electric lights on every floor!
They say it’s like the parliament in England.
They call it the new gothic.
This is a sky scraper. My Dad says
that’s what they used to call
a ship’s tallest mast. So, in my lift
I am a sailor in the rigging,
criss-crossing ... up and down.
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