On the Last Night in Dhaka

published in Jaggery
part of The Price of Our Clothes


After a morning highway ride

to Savar, passing roadside piles

of white bags stuffed

with broadcloth pockets,

gingham shirt fronts,

denim lapels—tons

of cotton remains

from factories—


after riding past smokestacks

rising through dirt,

spewing soot

from buried kilns

baking handmade bricks,


after watching, in Savar,

Rana Plaza survivors

push pant legs through

sewing machines

loud as machine guns,


after reaching, by afternoon,

Dhaka’s public cemetery,

to see how microbes

have decomposed

the unidentified

Rana Plaza dead,


after sunset dims my view

of Dhaka’s women garment workers

to silhouettes climbing

on fire escapes, like worker ants,

from one factory floor

to another,


after sitting in starless night

on a mattress in a muddy yard

opposite Pamina, who says:

I have no way out

of the garment industry,

I am confined

with the betterment of my children,


I lie in my hotel bed,

awake to American techno-pop,

jack-hammered from

a nearby disco.


Red, white, blue, flash

into the night with every beat.

Soldiers at the hotel entrance

guard guests—potential targets

for handmade bombs.


After two weeks in Bangladesh,

I long for this country’s

five a.m. call to prayer,

my own country’s music

to stop.