…….“Morals in the glass factories are proverbially bad.”
…….. – An inspector’s comment, caption to a 1908 Lewis Hines photo
Even a decent girl can hide nothing here.
I see the boys and even the old ones
stare at my smock, then my eyes, as if they can see
clean through. It’s mighty dangerous, too.
If a body’s not careful, you can get scraped
by sand, burned, or cut real bad.
Between the boys and the heat
and the broken glass, I tried to carry myself
as if I was a babe wrapped tight
in one of the thick quilts ma makes.
They still stared – maybe even more –
and I got tired trying to hold back.
The words they say to me! Even with the furnace
roaring, they whisper against my ear ‘til
I feel something taking shape inside me,
first soft as taffy, then sparkling like the glass beast
I saw a man make once, blowing through his lips.
I want to keep their words like the preserves
that will fill these jars so I can take them out
next year when I turn 14, and I’m feeling old.
“The Glass Factory” originally appeared in VIA. Maria Terrone’s most recent book is American Gothic, Take 2 (Finishing Line Press). She is currently at Queens College and has been at CUNY since 1990.