Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

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Linda McCarriston


We saw the weave room
in winter. We two
the only museum-goers.
A stairwell skirled up
floor beyond floor. Not

much of the rest of Lowell
was such red brick, so
tended. Out of two hundred,
ten looms thundered.

We mimed our meanings
to each other, big-eyed,
pushing the yellow sponge-
plugs into our ears. Above,
below, the rooms were

loomless, silent, but here
the blows treadled the floor.
Thread wants hot, wet air.
Comfy today, thread breaks

easily, but the girl working

won’t be docked, won’t be
jerked off her feet by the hair
if she’s careless, won’t be
bedded by the boss if she

means to keep the job. Prolapse
a common complaint,
I feel the flow, the rags,
five thirteen-hour days out of
seven, one of eight. Outdoors,

gray December, the canals
frozen, Labor a rusted wheel
here or there with a plaque.
First the looms went south

then back where the immigrants
came from to work them, now back
from there to greener pastures still:
so pretty a world once—an indigent
young girl—so slight, passing.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 82, No. 2 (Summer 2008), p. 21

Linda McCarriston
Photo Credit: Margaretta K. Mitchell

Linda McCarriston is from Lynn, Massachusetts, a traditionally first-generation city with a strong labor history, in the days when labor was conscious and organized. She did not leave her hometown until she was 26. In 1978, she earned an MFA and began publishing the poems that became her first book, Talking Soft Dutch, a selection in the AWP Award Series. Eva-Mary, her second book, won the Terence Des Pres Prize and was short-listed for the NBA. Little River, her third book, was published first in Ireland.

McCarriston has worked as a supermarket lunch counter girl, supermarket cashier, waitress, high school and college teacher, and “blue collar wife,” i.e., one who was a service provider for the rest of the family.