Snow in the Upstate of SC

In honor of our little snow adventure, I wrote a few light verses just for fun.

Poems inspired by the Textile History of SC

Lindy Lee: Songs on Mill Hill

An unpublished collection

Yesterday, I had a great visit to the Courtney Mill in Newry, SC. Historic building are a great inspiration to me for poems that speak to the people and context of South Carolina. I am looking forward to writing some new poems on the rich textile history of the Upstate.

But in the meantime, here are a few of my textile mill poems that have already been published.  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 Courtney Mill in Newry, SC and village,which inspired many of the poems. 

Photo by Dede Norungolo.


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.

Photo by Gordon Magee.

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.

Photo by Gordon Magee.

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.

Photo by Kimberly Simms

When I visited Courtney 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 after the installation of fluorescent lights, 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.

©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. (
“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. (

Spoken Word Poem on Fear Mongering: Terrified

After watching the #GOPDebate, Dr. Ben Carson's talk about EMP threats and the very real threat of terrorists taking out the electrical grid, I was reminded of this poem I wrote. In the spirit of full disclosure, I find it easy to get overwhelmed by the constant messages of destruction from the media. 


by Kimberly Simms

It started with airplanes. What with failing airlines
cutting flights and possibly corners, long lines,
the war, terrorism, deep thrombosis, and the advent
of exotic Asian diseases, flying was just too risky.

But then there was that Amtrak disaster,
the hijacked greyhound, EMP threats,
orange terror alerts, mass shootings—
it just seemed safer to stick close to home.

Then one night there was this piece on Hardcopy
about wax coated fruit, rat hair allowances,
genetically modified gluten disasters;
it was time to switch to organic food.

I wondered, “What fiasco was next?”
I became obsessed with watching the news.
It seemed that disaster was everywhere:
kidnappings, sleeping terror cells,
biochemical weapons, and vulnerable milk supplies. 

So I began shopping on line, telecommuting,
cleansing my living surfaces with antibacterial bleach.
I stocked piled plastic bags, solar chargers & duct tape.
I stowed gallons of fresh drinking water, began grinding
my own wheat.  I built a bomb shelter in my basement.
I bought a gas mask on e-bay.  

Now that I didn’t leave the house, it was much easier
to keep abreast of current events that shape my world. 
I had 24 hour streaming CNN, MSNBC, Fox Live Breaking News. 

But then Time Magazine ran that piece on micro-organisms,
how they thrive in shower heads and vaporize in the steam. 
So I stopped taking showers . . .  

But then Newsweek described the toxicity of indoor air
the ecosystems in my carpet.  I was confused
didn’t know what to do — nowhere was safe. 

And then I realized! There was space!
I launched myself in a high-tech shuttle,
pressed my face against the viewing bubble
at the peaceful swathes of blue green trouble.

Now that I was in outer space

Finally, I smiled — I would be safe!

#endtimes #terrified #fear #organic #safefood #terrorism #news #fearmongering


And that's not even including the Zombie apocalypse!