Nissan are making ventilators,
and I'm reminded
of my grandmother, who gave up her job
as the priest's housekeeper
to work in a factory
making camouflage nets and bomb-parts.
She had one good eye.
She'd say she was witless scared,
one mistake and boom!
My first job was at Mackay's.
I remember the smell of new carpet
and the towering Wilton looms,
the warp of the weave
like a circus tent above my head,
carnival colour threads
passing through Jacquard cards.
Shuttles raced up and down,
the sound like jack hammers.
The bus dropped you outside
the Top Ten Bingo Hall
that used to be the old Majestic.
In the canteen, Christine,
the manager, smoked
one-a-day for nerves.
She was up for affray:
had seen a man, surrounded by policemen,
kicked to the ground
and had jumped on a policeman's back,
in her slippers and nightdress, like a rottweiler.
She knew all about bent coppers; her old man was a collier.
She had a secret recipe for fish batter
and talked to every factory worker
like they were bairns, and she their mother.
Meanwhile the carpets rolled off the conveyor
belt pressed and steamed, Axminister red,
heading to one stately home or another.
Rachel Burns’ poetry is widely published in journals and anthologies. She was runner-up in the BBC Poetry Proms 2019 competition and her poem broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Her debut poetry pamphlet, A Girl in a Blue Dress is published by Vane Women Press.