9. Drapery Factory, Gulfport, Mississippi, 1956
She made the trip daily, though
later she would not remember
how far to tell the grandchildren—
Better that way.
She could keep those miles
a secret, and her black face
and black hands, and the pink bottoms
of her black feet
an minor inconvenience.
She does remember the men
she worked for, and that often
she sat side by side
with white women, all of them
bent over, pushing into the hum
of machines, their right calves
tensed against the pedals.
Her lips tighten speaking
of quitting time when
the colored women filed out slowly
to have their purses checked,
the insides laid open and exposed
by the boss’s hand.
But then she laughs
when she recalls the soiled Kotex
she saved, stuffed into a bag
in her purse, and Adam’s look
on one white man’s face, his hand
deep in knowledge.