Monday, November 8, 2021

Poem: At the Factory Where My Mother Worked

At the Factory Where My Mother Worked
by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Once when I was seventeen, I visited the factory
where my mother worked. It was on the second floor
up a flight of narrow, rickety stairs, and when I opened
the door, the noise of sewing machines slapped my face.

I searched for my mother in the close-packed row
of women bent over their sewing. The floor manager
picked up one of the pieces my mother had finished,
screamed, “You call this sewing?” and threw the coat

on the floor. The tables were lit by bare light bulbs,
dangling down on cords. I had never seen the place
where my mother worked. She thought we should be
protected from all that was ugly and mean

in the grown-up world. “Children should be children,”
she’d say. “They’ll learn trouble soon enough.
We don’t need to tell them about it.” She did not answer
the floor walker. Instead, she bent her head over her sewing,

but not before I saw the shame on her face.

This poem appeared in THE WIDE SHORE #3

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's new poetry collection is When the Stars Were Still Visible (2021). Other recent publications are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow and the poetry collections What Blooms in Winter and The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets which pairs her poems with her paintings. Maria's artist's website is and her poetry website is

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