Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
A Cry from the Ghetto
(From the Yiddish)

By Morris Rosenfeld

(The poet of the East Side Jews of New York City, 1862–1923. His poems appeared in Yiddish newspapers and leaflets, and are the genuine voice of the sweat-shop workers. The following translation is by Charles Weber Linn)
THE ROARING of the wheels has filled my ears,
  The clashing and the clamor shut me in;
Myself, my soul, in chaos disappears,
  I cannot think or feel amid the din.
Toiling and toiling and toiling—endless toil.        5
  For whom? For what? Why should the work be done?
I do not ask, or know. I only toil.
  I work until the day and night are one.
The clock above me ticks away the day,
  Its hands are spinning, spinning, like the wheels.        10
It cannot sleep or for a moment stay,
  It is a thing like me, and does not feel.
It throbs as tho’ my heart were beating there—
  A heart? My heart? I know not what it means.
The clock ticks, and below I strive and stare.        15
  And so we lose the hour. We are machines.
Noon calls a truce, an ending to the sound,
  As if a battle had one moment stayed—
A bloody field! The dead lie all around;
  Their wounds cry out until I grow afraid.        20
It comes—the signal! See, the dead men rise,
  They fight again, amid the roar they fight.
Blindly, and knowing not for whom, or why,
  They fight, they fall, they sink into the night.

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