Somewhere in Atlantic City,
Dorothy Allen is wiping down
the brassy arm of a slot machine
with the sleeve of her nightgown,
then sliding her quarters through
its narrow mouth.
The silver slits of those machines
had already swallowed half her fortune.
She worked in a light bulb factory for 50 years,
from 17 to 67, sticking filaments in glass balloons.
She never broke a single one.
And after work, she sat beside
a busted television set,
sliding miniature ships into empty wine bottles.
She had about a thousand before the fire,
when, as it always seems to happen,
a little flame became a bigger flame,
which coiled up a curtain,
then sprawled across the walls and ceiling,
swallowing her world.
The fire department found her on the curb,
a cigarette in her left hand,
a wine bottle in her right,
wiping her eyes with her nightgown’s sleeve.
“I make them,” she said,
pressing her finger against the bottle,
which turned, now, in the rough glove of a firefighter,
illumined by those howling lights.
“Can’t you see the ship inside?”