Rachel Burns: a poem



Factory-made


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.