Numbers: 1965

Castor Avenue was Jewish then
delis, yarmulkes,
old bearded men, two by two
arguing in Yiddish
bearing wrinkled gray suits
and soiled white shirts
to the cleaners where I worked
in my Catholic school uniform.
Wives in faded housedresses bore
pin-striped pants and cigar-scented
vests. And sometimes
forearms tattooed with
black numbers would slide
heavy woolen overcoats
across the formica counter, but
those numbers meant no more
to me than the tiny black numbers
on tags I pinned to their garments.
Kathleen Shaw grew up in Northeast Philly during the 1960s. For twenty years,
she has taught English at Montgomery County Community College in Pottstown.

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