When a Factory’s Life Ends

Foul gray smoke once belched
from tall red brick stacks
A bittersweet sign of life–
the old factory was still working

The smoke has now ended
along with the noisy metal-banging
that kept men busy
from sun up till sun down

The iron gates are chained shut
Never again, will they greet the dark faces
of hardened men with stale breath
from strong black coffee and cigarettes

Too easy to blame, too many strikes
for the factory’s foreboding silence
but hungry workers elsewhere, willing
to work for much less
and customers needing less metal
are just as much the reason
why the dark faces have grown much darker

The mill is history–
a cold, lifeless archeological ruin
So are the paychecks that paid the bills
giving small consolation to the two thousand men
laughing at each other’s lame jokes
dreaming of days
they wouldn’t have to work so hard

Now that day has come, and
their dreams and jokes both have ended.

8 thoughts on “When a Factory’s Life Ends

  1. Pingback: rowejason.com » Blog Archive » The class in the middle (economic poem rant)

  2. Rest assured, your creative writing does not suffer despite your increased workload, Don. I love what you’ve written here, how concrete the images are, how real in terms of walking out one’s door and meeting the ‘poem’ in the faces of those we meet on the sidewalk, on the streets. For me, the poem instantly reminds me of clients I’ve personally met in labor disputes/cases, ranging from employees in janitorial services to workers in the construction industry.

  3. these places make strange monuments don’t they
    i had a similar experience last year when i returned to a town where i had worked in factories as a teenager
    some were as you describe
    others had disappeared and are now housing developments
    thank you don

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