TURN OF THE CENTURY
They stand crucified by loom ribs and spindles,
these hemp women made from shadow,
with their skull heads doubled over machines
that worked, but not for them.
They present their misery unabashed,
unwilling to hide it,
unable to conjure, for a shutter second, smiles.
In the foreground there is a youth.
He is small
(The nearest women are bending to his height)
but there is more than a hint of swagger
in the watch chain,
the slightly bending knee,
the hand laid proprietorially on a spool of cloth.
He is a golden boy:
he shines even in this glory of sepia.
It is the way the world is:
and you know the women will die
near the looms,
their certainties the more enduring,
and that the boy’s chest will be torn
by machine guns,
all the puff and pride blown to smoke forever.
He will not live to see the skeleton of his mill
or hear the women, weeping still.
Description: Pinned to a wooden facing board on the Verdant Works Building.
Geotag co-ords: 56.461812, -2.983704