She slides over 
the hot upholstery
of her mother's car,
this schoolgirl of fifteen
who loves humming & swaying 
with the radio.
Her entry into womanhood
will be like all the other girls'--
a cigarette and a joke,
as she strides up with the rest
to a brick factory
where she'll sew rag rugs
from textile strips of kelly green,
bright red, aqua.

When she enters,
and the millgate closes,
final as a slap,
there'll be silence.
She'll see fifteen high windows
cemented over to cut out light.
Inside, a constant, deafening noise
and warm air smelling of oil,
the shifts continuing on. . . 
All day she'll guide cloth along a line 
of whirring needles, her arms & shoulders
rocking back & forth
with the machines--
200 porch size rugs behind her
before she can stop
to reach up, like her mother, 
and pick the lint
out of her hair.

From Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life, edited by Peter Oresick and Nicholas Coles, published by the University of Illinois Press. Copyright © 1983 Catherine Anderson. Used with permission.