Author Cindy Veach shared a few of her favorite poems from the new poetry book Gloved Against Blood.
The first on Cindy’s list of poems is How a Community of Women.
This is the poem that triggered the collection, Gloved Against Blood, although at the time I wrote it I had no idea that this would be the case. As my mother aged she began to share stories with me that I was not aware of or was only peripherally aware of. She had spent decades raising six children and supporting my father’s career and her life before us was not top of mind for her. At the same time we moved every 2-3 years during my childhood and I have never been able to easily answer the question, “Where did you grow up?” I was without a hometown. And it made me feel less and un-rooted. Then the stories started to come and I latched onto them. Not just for me, but in an attempt to preserve the lives of the women who came before me to whom I feel inextricably connected.
How a Community of Women
Resolved, That we will not go back into the mills to work unless our wages are continued…as they have been.
Resolved, That none of us will go back, unless they receive us all as one.
Resolved, That if any have not money enough to carry them home, they shall be supplied.
—Boston Evening Transcript, February 18, 1834
How my French Canadian great grandmother and great, great aunts toiled
thirteen hours a day in the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts. How weak
the light when they left the boardinghouse each morning. How screaming starlings flash mobbed them along the way. How they sucked thread
through the eye of their foot long wooden shuttles that fed the cotton
to the looms. How they called that quick motion of their lips “the kiss of death”.
How they could not converse over the cacophonic, clickity-click, clickity-clack
of five hundred howling looms. How they walked back in ear-ringing
darkness, had dinner, then took up their needlework—crochet, crewel, cross stitch, knitting, mending, quilting, darning—close work, women’s work.
My mother taught me, her mother taught her, her mother taught her.
Acknowledgement: originally published in Sou’wester and 3 Nations Anthology.