Textile Mill Poems

Dr. Gilbert Allen says of the book, "I've been reading the Lindy Lee poems for over a decade now, and I'm delighted to see them collected in a volume that amplifies their individual power. In the tradition of Ron Rash, Cathy Smith Bowers, and Linda Ferguson, Kimberly Simms has chronicled the lives of textile workers in the Carolinas with historical accuracy, imaginative insight, and lyrical grace."


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. https://flic.kr/ps/2qqwpH

Photo by Gordon Magee. https://flic.kr/ps/2qqwpH

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.

Copyright 2017 Kimberly J. Simms
Under contract with Finishing Line Press for release 2017.

No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.