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Welcome to my online home.  Just like my timber frame cabin in the mountains of South Carolina, I hope this space will have a sense of place. I am fun-loving Southern woman who loves the old folk ways, fresh tomatoes from the garden, local history, and the atmospheric southern landscape.

“Kimberly Simms writes with eloquence and empathy about an important part of Southern history too often neglected.” --Ron Rash, Author of Serena

Monday, September 14, 2015

Unpublished Poetry Manuscript: Lindy Lee: Poems on Mill Hill


In 2005, I begun a collection of historic poems based on the rich textile history of the Upstate of SC. In sum, eleven of the poems have appeared in literary journals, and I am now sending the manuscript out for publication as a chapbook. The poems tell the story of Lindy Lee, a fictional mill worker, and her life and family. The poems are based on historical research as well as interviews with family members who worked in Poe Mill and Union Bleachery. I also toured the Newry Mill and village, pictured below, before it was demolished. 

Photo by Dede Norungolo.

 Dip

Doctor said it would make me grow. 
That first time, chaw flipped my stomach.
But all the mill girls dip. My sisters
swear the thick stew keeps out the lint.

When the girls came up, they had spittoons
but now we bring our own little jars.
I ain’t never seen a girl smoke a cigarette.
Miss Rena would say it was unladylike.

Jerome’s Silence

Silence is a pause between shifts,
a Sunday dawn, it ain’t a commodity
but it’s rarer than gold.

Farmers got a sense about snakes
they hear the tremor of the grass,
the slight zither.

The looms are so stretched out
they shriek and jerk like sinners
in the fires of hell.

I know the sound of moth’s wings.
I’ve heard the first cricket of spring,
a lifetime back I had the clarity of silence.

 “Dip 1929,” “Hop Along Little Crow,” “Jerome’s Silence.” The South Carolina Review. Vol 42.2. Clemson, SC: Clemson UP, 2010.

The Cotton Mill’s Song

Thread spinner. Loom weaver.
Cloth maker to the world.
Doffers. Smashers. Slashers.
Whipping, sweltering, and worn.

It is true what they tell you. I am wicked
with my women weaving through throbbing
night under the electric lights. And, yes,
they say I am cruel for I have slaughtered

the little child and then brought another
to fill his place. And they tell you I am vile.
But my reply: in the cheeks of girls
and the ribs of toddlers I have instilled

the hollows of hunger. And still, I will turn
to those indolent idealists who huff
at our speeding machines, and say to them:

Come and show me a grander temple
to woman’s industry with brick walls buzzing
through sunrises and hail storms and snap frost.
Show me another place where the indigent,

the illiterate, the slow, the widowed
are set to toil so assiduously in
sweat-soaked aprons and wild, dripping hair.
Spouting steam and thick oil, I cast long shadows

across the mountains. I sing my swollen song
timbre as dulcimer strings. Flushed. Defiant.
Racing. Thumping. Heaving. On the floor, cotton
coating my woman’s skin, singing with hands

like wrens, fueling the machinery of America,
and singing the way only a burdened
soul can sing, with chin thrown forward
and heart sour as ukulele, humming,
beating a foot on the cotton covered pine,

blood pumping to the pulse of the looms. Singing!
Singing the heavy, linty, violent
song of the worker. Sinewy, sweat-soaked
proud to be thread spinner. Loom weaver.
Cloth Maker to the World.



"The Cotton Mill Song." “1963” Blue Collar Review. Vol. 10 Issue 1. Autumn 2006. Norfolk, VA: Partisan Press, 2006.


"Beach-glass" by JSpiess - JSpiess - photography shot in Eastern PA. 

When I visited Newry Mill near Clemson,SC, I found shards of blue glass in the rubble. The glass shards and the story of how mill windows were bricked in the 1960's, inspired this poem.

Blue Panes

Indigo, cobalt, azure. Protection
from the evil eye or wandering ghouls.
Cool icy streams. The color of heaven.
Jesus’ robes. Hyacinth blooms.

I always loved those windows,
forty years those blue eyes met mine,
a window to the soul. Mr. Stephenson sent
the boys up on ladders, smashing

laughing with each rain of blue tears.
Blue tick. Bluebird. Blueberry.
Shards settled in the grass and shone
in the streaming sun like a thousand eyes.

Who knew mortar could be spread
so fast? By day end we stood
in the fluorescent lights, surrounded
on all sides by endless brick.

But the debris called to us like jewels to crows.
We couldn’t help but pick up the shards,
filling our aprons with textured glass
then stringing our porches with their blue song.


“Blue Panes.” Honorable Mention. Kakalak 2006: An Anthology of Carolina Poets. Charlotte, NC: Main Street Rag, 2006.

"Beach-glass" by JSpiess - JSpiess - photography shot in Eastern PA. Licensed under CC0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beach-glass.jpg#/media/File:Beach-glass.jpg


©Kimberly Jane Gibbs No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any electronic or audio form without permission in writing from the author. The author reserves all rights to this original piece of writing. 

Publication History of Collection Poems from Lindy Lee: Songs on Mill Hill

“Middle Saluda.” South Carolina Review, Volume 47, Number 3. Fall 2015. Clemson, SC: Clemson UP, 2015.
 “Dip 1929,” “Hop Along Little Crow,” “Jerome’s Silence.” The South Carolina Review. Vol 42.2. Clemson, SC: Clemson UP, 2010.
“The Summer of Tiger Swallow Tails.” In The Yard Anthology. Sylva, NC: Old Mountain Press, 2007. (oldmp.com)
“Brother’s Mess of Crosses.” First Place. 2006 John Edward Johnson Prize. SC Poetry Society. Charleston, SC: SCPS, 2006.
“Cliff Jump.” Honorable Mention. 2006 Lyric Poem Prize. SC Poetry Society. Charleston, SC: SCPS, 2006.
"The Cotton Mill Song." “1963” Blue Collar Review. Vol. 10 Issue 1. Autumn 2006. Norfolk, VA: Partisan Press, 2006.
“Blue Panes.” Honorable Mention. Kakalak 2006: An Anthology of Carolina Poets. Charlotte, NC: Main Street Rag, 2006.

“Mama’s Mill Christmas 1935.” Home for the Holidays. Anthology. Sylva, NC: Old Mountain Press, 2006. (oldmp.com)

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