Who Worked in Wool & Wood
For Mary Weldon Draper 1885-1968
Weathered clapboards are chipped to dull mottle
where macadam cracks with weeds and heave.
The buildings of the mill sit vacant,
in testament to an age of weave
and weft, of knits and felts made
now in other hemispheres;
machinery long sold off or scrapped,
relics from an old forgotten time,
all of it destined to disappear.
I suppose that, at 19, you knew
about drum carders and kept count on rovings,
might have known who worked too slow
to be much good on the floor.
Maybe you worked in the fulling room
where all the wool got scoured and you
kept track of thrumming from the loom,
learned the mill from way down deep
and moved up fast and well, transformed
like soft waste, that first bit of wool
that drops from the carding machine
they’d gather and use for spinning good yarn.
You thought the man in charge of the knitting barn
had a spark in his eye when you’d pass by
in, say, nineteen-ought-five.
How it was then, for a girl of twenty?
where did you go
and what did you dream when
your childhood disappeared?
Old clippings told us:
at 30 you eloped, came back to the mill town
but never worked again.
how at 50 you’d be widowed
just beginning to learn yourself
carving wood in Chippendale style,
beds with acorn posts, table legs
with fetlocks and hooves,
and jointed claws grasping balls.
The feet of your furniture
nestle me now in a country where mills
make only whispers and echoes and
your chiseled works hold up
against the disappeared
pushing us, who follow, forward toward
By Mira Coleman, Bath