Welcome!

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

Textile Mill Poems


Lindy Lee: Songs on Mill Hill

Forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2017



Lindy Lee: Songs on Mill Hill features 40 poems based on the history and landscape of Carolina and Georgia textile mill workers from the 1910s to the 1960s. The poems focus on the fictional character of Lindy Lee, her family, and their mill village. Although these poems aspire to portray Southern mill workers as accurately as possible, they constitute a creative work of fiction. Most result from the synthesis of stories gleaned from personal accounts, site visits, newspaper articles, and historical volumes. The poems explore the emotional turmoil, physical hardships, and joys of Southern women and their families in the textile industry.

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."

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.







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

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. https://flic.kr/ps/2qqwpH


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. (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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