Only those white clouds are free
to soar beyond the factory window;
inside, grey dust scales
the cutter hacking out shirts,
flinging dismembered parts, inanimate
as dead dreams, into open boxes.
Here, life is taped, ruled
"At the double!"-the double seam
yoking body to arm, the double load
of outside job plus housework, the double talk
of a radio playing "Workers' Play time"
while women sweat for a minimum wage.
Their hands cling to a Singer
racing like a small, frantic beast
toward five o'clock and freedom
of a sort; life buttoned down
from eight to five, for fifty weeks a year the
embrace of these whose limp arms hold
only the bone and flesh
of a five-day week plus
compulsory overtime.
Their eternal home is this dead end
where St. Mary is a supervisor
with hennaed hair, steel eyeglasses
and a tongue whipping them forward
and God is a scissors-wielding boss
slashing seams and wages.

Neither the singer nor the song
these women
are only the necessary insert
between the dole and the rent
due Friday next,
and the young girls marry arm to body,
try to pin life down by the tail,
and dream of collaring a husband, rattling out
short and long stitches: hopeful 50S
to that future Prince
faceless now as these headless ones

who will take them away from all this,
into a fairy world of wifedom
where life will be a seamless wonder
and the inside will be as perfect as the
outside ...

And the older women, wiser, turn away,
knowing that in a woman's world
all hope hangs only by a threat
and they fold the shirts and entomb
them tight in plastic, seeing
in these pale look-a likes
an image of themselves
boxed in, straight-jacketed, branded
in cut-rate, throw-away packages.

Jancis Andrews
West Vancouver, B.C.

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