Wednesday, November 18, 2015
In 1929, my grandfather’s boss
at Hovanian Oriental Carpets
ran out of money, so paid him his wages
in brightly woven rugs from Armenia, Turkey,
Afghanistan and China, “Take this, home,”
the owner said, “d’ram cheega.”
So week after week he brought home carpets,
tacking them to the floors then the walls
of the three bedroom apartment
in the Bronx, using a large
Persian rug as a bedspread,
and another to protect the couch.
Then my grandmother covered
the kitchen table, refrigerator, and stove,
the bathtub, toilet, and sink;
next, she stitched together clothes:
pants, shirts, underwear, and socks,
and convinced the cobbler down the block
to make shoes for the whole neighborhood;
then they lined the street and sidewalk
with carpets and tapestries, remnants, and rugs.
Soon you could walk barefoot on Bathgate Avenue,
while up in the apartment, my grandmother
cut strips of fabric to bake or fry,
serving the pieces mixed with rice pilaf,
or toasting thin slices in the morning,
stuffing the rest into the coffee grinder
boiling it down as thick as Turkish coffee,
a stiff bitter tonic
served with salt and sand.
"The Great Depression" was originally published in the Red Earth Review 's Summer 2015 issue.