Masquerade a La Belle Époque

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Masquerade a La Belle Époque
 
We remember you 
from gaslight days and
your industrial mates.
 
You scooped unwanted 
cherubs off lower eastside 
alleys shipping them west
 
on orphan trains
for their own good.
So comely in your day
 
gracefully lifting crinolines
stepping into the gutter,
every hair in place.
 
Now you’re in my space,
as in a dream,
swishing feathered fans
 
sweeping into charity balls
craning Tiffanyied necks
gowned by Maison Worth:
 
courtesy of loop holes
tax rates and supersalaries
from your Rastignacs.
 
Would it move you ever so
if our 47% lived more like then?
Above saloons, rolling tobacco
 
in 325 square foot rooms?
Or in seven-cent lodgings 
in basements black as night,
 
only to meet light 
and earth in potter’s field?
Or is your hedge-fund head
 
into coal burning stoves
and burlap-smothered walls?
Seamstresses, rag pickers
 
and peddlers?
Or planks as beds?
Two-cent all-night
 
joints? Children of nine
scrubbing for a dime?
Or Mama dragging water 
 
up tumbledown stairs
from an alley spigot for a 
bathtub in the kitchen?
 
Rentiers Américains,
at after-tax afternoon teas:
your gardens coiffed by Juan,
 
in mega mansions secured by Willie,
offspring reared by Josephina:
Belle Époque Ladies,
 
you are on the scene 
in between
changes of haute couture,
 
corseted assets on display,
 a dash of Imperial Majesty
behind an ear wafting over
 
dividends, stocks and bonds
in the hands of few, 
How do you do?
 
 

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