Looking at near sunlight through far sunlight,
as if she could come back, knowing she was gone,
she’d wonder where the mill went, the trolley tracks,
the smell of sparking wires–a parallelogram in heat–
the echoing hallways above kitchen traffic.
If she kept quiet, she could believe in luck
and allow it to take the place of shame,
after the farm mysteriously burned
and she arrived here with her cardboard suitcase,
until the house attached to the clinic
for mill-workers harmed by their machines
became itself a fortress to escape from–
too many men, one lonely pretty girl.
Where mill-houses stood, some New South project
runs bang against a vagrant’s paradise–
weeds, discarded needles, broken glass–
exactly where my mother would have stepped
out the front door on the way to a movie
and then a fountain Coke at a safe drugstore
in downtown Atlanta, wearing her good shoes.
Trash trees crowd the view where sunrise stood
for a few minutes in her bedroom window
in the sweet time before the spindles started,
the northern trains steamed into the roundhouse,
the stern world of work would put her to use
and teach her to make something of herself.