I lived in a cotton town where the mouth
of the mill fell open each morning
and the people disappeared into the neck of it.
They said I could work there too,
when I was sixteen, and I did, but the lint
settled on my lashes & in my throat.
The knitting machines could not stop.
Heavy rolls of cloth were cut loose for replacement.
Production rose each time it was reached,
which caused a frenzy of desperation.
That summer, at sixteen, I had no desire
to thread or tie or tear anything but dreams,
because mine were in chaos.
Of course I wanted more.
I meant to carve abandoned mornings
of pleasure and brand new destinations
San Francisco & cable cars & Arizona,
where I hoped to follow tumbleweeds
into the evening of a cactus bloom.
I thought of walking in New York.
I thought of Emily in Amherst
and believed I would dress in black & white
for a whole year of my life.
But instead, from three in the evening
until eleven at night, I walked the concrete floors.
I ate cheese crackers & hurried back to my machines.
I asked permission to go to the bathroom.
I stood in line for my paycheck and listened
to the women curse the secretary,
who refused to release the checks until exactly three.
When I turned seventeen, I ran away to the beach &
found a job reaching life jackets around the waists
of women, children, men, again and again,
so that they could ride the water safely.
It was an amusement park & the colors burst
into a red/yellow/orange against the greens & blues
& I wore white & turned brown & I did everything
I could think to do in the sunlight.
Each evening the ocean threw up new shells on the sand.
I gathered them pinkly to whisper in their ears,
I murmured closely to them, a million golden hues.
is an Appalachian poet and writer. Her work appears in numerous anthologies, magazines, journals, and ezines, nationally and internationally, including: Southern Ocean Review, Clinch Mountain Review, Poetrybay, the Appalachian Review, 2River, the Sow's Ear Review, and the Circle Magazine. She has three chapbooks, On White Top, Indian Wind Song, and What I Saw Beautiful. Two full collections, Blue Cold Morning, and Blue Water Poems, are available at Amazon. She lives in the Appalachian mountains of Southwest, Virginia, in the small historical town of Abingdon.