barb greth invited me to speak and read to the group a few months ago after attending one my poetry reading featuring shirley kohl as a special guest from my second book last year at the muhlenberg community library.
since i began handing out one sample poem (in large font, to boot) for people to follow along with and keep at each of my poetry readings in the past year or two, to help those in the audience absorb the language a little more easily than just hearing the lines, i featured charlotte o. moyer's poem as an introduction. barb and i decided on this in advance since we wanted to have a woman's story as the first focal point during march as women's history month, and while i read many other female-based poems, we mixed in some from men by the end, too, including the one based on john groff's jobs as a resident of earl township, born in 1936. john was a part of a poetry reading at oley valley community library in september of 2016.
below is charlotte's poem from my third and final volume of the labors of our fingertips: poems from manufacturing history of berks county.
mae fisher nudged me to get a job at glo-ray knitting mills
in 1958. i knew mae from church—a friend of my parents.
a woman from west lawn drove through south heidelberg,
picked up me and mae on the way to robesonia. we’d give her
some cash to help her out, thank her for the ride. i remember
children’s sweaters, striped across the chests and arms with
dyed red fibers, white ones in between the wide lines. trying
to match up the stripes perfectly, linking the arm-parts and
what touched the back and belly, seemed like some cruel joke,
silly but real stress by day. i checked sleeves first, then sewed
them into their grand finales, finishing off the wait of selvage,
the underside of excess where the two faces of material met.
i started up the sides, from the bottom of the waist to a loop
around the armhole. workers would bring me one heaping
pile of sleeves and the main middle halves. you had to be very
exacting with those sleeves because if you stitched too far by
a small measure in the intended zone, they’d turn out more
than just a bit awkwardly. and nobody wants clumpy-fitting
sleeves, nor would those be approved for packaging. merrow
manufactured the machine i used. it stitched and cut off any
excess at the same time. every night, i came home, felt fuzzy
wads of sweater aftermath in the creases of my neck, elbows,
irritating, pesky annoyance to scrunch my nose at once i
walked through the door. i extracted them from my skin,
pulled off pieces of clammy sweater debris sticking to my
clothing. at a picnic one summer, they had a shaving contest,
women taking razorblades to santa claus-like faces of men,
done up in cream. they draped long, red fabric over the guys
to keep from getting far too messy. i took some of that ruby
textile with me—they were going to throw it out, anyway, and
i still have it in a box, to this day. that game of passing a single
orange from one person’s neck to another, with the no-hands
rule in full use, is in a picture i took that afternoon, a camera
often stuffed into my purse, even back then, documenter
of history that i am, knowing simply—stories are everything.