Wednesday, August 31, 2016

a glimpse: anna machmer, born 1919.

normally, i post just a long excerpt and not a complete poem in sharing these samplings from the project (as a way to make the actual books more want-worthy). but in the case of anna machmer, leaving out the ending online just seems like it'd be remiss due to how special her contribution of memories is in the second volume of this poetry. born in 1919, she grew up in berks county but moved to virginia a long time ago, and her son subscribing to the historical review of berks county is how their family heard about this project. before 2016, no one who resides outside of berks county was a part of the poems. so anna is special in this way, as is another woman in chester county (not far from berks county) whose poem will be shared in october.

ron machmer kindly offered photographs of his mother, historic and new.


( anna & her future husband, wellington machmer, at berkshire knitting mills 
where they were a part of preparing silk stockings to seal up and ship out )


anna machmer, franconia, fairfax county, virginia | born: 1919

i grew up on pear street in the city of reading, right near 
the railroad tracks. we’d sit on the pavement and watch 
the trains, counting them as they went by—my brothers,
sisters—jake, henry, mary, theresa, julie. sometimes we’d
catch sight of maybe 100 train cars in a 20-minute span.
when our mom told us to get an ice block, we’d crawl under
the parked rail cars with tongs, hunting for heavy, frozen
water. by the time i turned 16 and quit school, i spent my
mornings at berkshire knitting mills waiting for them to call

my name, the incentive to show up again and again in such
early hours of a new shift. by 1936, they voiced anna kuhn,
hired me. i earned $17 a week back then. my mom let me keep
$1 of it. it went a long way in those days. i worked in the box
department on the second floor, used an upright stamping
machine, pressing my foot down onto the pedal below so that 
an imprint came down. it inked size and color notes. on one
occasion, the machine slammed onto my right pointer finger
instead of a box. i didn’t tell anyone, didn’t scream or cry. it

hurt fiercely, but i didn’t want to fuss. the small history-spot
of blur stained the skin of my finger until just a few years ago.
it’s hard to believe that reminder finally left my hand. i ate my
paper bagged lunch alone by the lockers to have a little silence
away from thunderous machines. by 1937, i met wellington,
an intellectual fellow, smart for a farm boy, the valedictorian
of his class in wernersville. i smiled easily at him every day 
at the berky and saw him at night, too, once we started dating.
sometimes he had to gather his family’s ripe, fresh produce

in evenings, though. after we married, we never ate chicken 
in our house because he didn’t want any sight of it. cleaning
them, pulling and plucking out their feathers took too heavy
a toll on his gut, so we ate anything but that poultry. at work,
we had lunch in his car. he bought a new one each year, dodge
or plymouth. during a strike, since i thought, i gotta work—i
can’t lose my job, a brick,   rock,   or   something hard crashed 
           through my front window, payback for crossing the line.
                     the berky’s management paid to replace

that glass. by 1946, we traveled south, became new virginians.

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