She slides over the hot upholstery of her mother's car, this schoolgirl of fifteen who loves humming & swaying with the radio. Her entry into womanhood will be like all the other girls'-- a cigarette and a joke, as she strides up with the rest to a brick factory where she'll sew rag rugs from textile strips of kelly green, bright red, aqua. When she enters, and the millgate closes, final as a slap, there'll be silence. She'll see fifteen high windows cemented over to cut out light. Inside, a constant, deafening noise and warm air smelling of oil, the shifts continuing on. . . All day she'll guide cloth along a line of whirring needles, her arms & shoulders rocking back & forth with the machines-- 200 porch size rugs behind her before she can stop to reach up, like her mother, and pick the lint out of her hair.
From Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life, edited by Peter Oresick and Nicholas Coles, published by the University of Illinois Press. Copyright © 1983 Catherine Anderson. Used with permission.