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Cotton Mill

by Lia5Giba

I walk to the door of the workroom

Four steps up the dusty stairs

To the same door I face every day

I reach for the handle --

And I stop. I hesitate.

Because who would want to work

In a dirty, crowded factory

Filthy bare feet scraping the filthy floor

Along with the feet of filthy rats

And hopeless children, the same as me

The light long gone from their eyes.

Who would want to work

With the unforgiving machines of a cotton mill

Working cotton through them

And sometimes unlucky fingers as well

Every day, for fifteen hours

Until your muscles ache, your back is hunched

But you must keep going

Unless you would like to be whipped until you swim in blood.

Who would want to work

In another terrible cotton mill

For so long that your back breaks

Your hands are cut

Your feet scrape

And without any breaks or freedoms

Like looking out a window.

And all of this hardship

For only twenty cents a day.

But I have no choice.

I have walked into this trap

To feed myself and my family.

So I take a breath

And take the dreaded handle

With my rough, blistered hands

And I twist the knob and open the door, and finally walk inside.

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926 Reviews

Points: 124736
Reviews: 926

Sun Apr 26, 2020 2:33 am
alliyah wrote a review...

Hi there! Here to leave a review for your poem! I was surprised to see a poem on this subject, and I really commend you for taking on a difficult historical subject like this for poetry - I don't know if you've seen the TV show "The Mill" but it's a gruesome depiction of what the cotton mill life was like for child laborers, and it is a seriously horrible and under-discussed piece of history.

So on the poem itself, I think you do a good job balancing physical imagery, and internal emotion, you even get into some of the politics of this low-wage labor at the end, that they feel they must submit themselves to this labor to feed their families. I think some of the imagery you used felt a little repetitive, like you mention feet and hands a couple times, and I wonder if you could find a way to vary that a bit, or else just diversify your imagery more.

I would also recommend making the lines a bit more standard length, there was a quite a bit of variation in line length which becomes even more distracting when a poem is formatted by being centered, because the long lines really stick out and detract from the flow.

I like how the poem made a full loop from walking in, reflecting, and then actually walking in; however I don't know if that felt like the most significant way to end it, maybe a final line of reflection, imagery, or symbolism there would be good to elevate that final moment.

Overall I liked your varied imagery, and feel like you captured a bit of the cruelty and sadness of cotton mill labor, I would love to see you tackle more historical subjects actually, or even dig deeper into this one! Good luck in your writing, keep it up!

- alliyah


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157 Reviews

Points: 6575
Reviews: 157

Sun Apr 26, 2020 1:14 am
LadyVendetta wrote a review...

Hello, I'm Jade and I'll be reviewing your poem today. Let's get started :)

I walk to the door of the workroom

Four steps up the dusty stairs

To the same door I face every day

I reach for the handle --

I like the interesting start, and the format is aesthetically pleasing, but have you considered stanzas?
The last sentence makes the flow a bit stunted, but other than that I have no suggestions.

The next section was a bit of a surprise. I was taken aback, but it was well executed and I felt sad. No complaints and your flow, spelling, and everything else was perfect!

The last part was almost a twist for me, seeing as I expected the person o be in the modern day, thinking of historical tmes.

Overall, I have to say it was written well and I could picture it in my mind!


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27 Reviews

Points: 1579
Reviews: 27

Tue Mar 31, 2020 3:17 pm
Katteex wrote a review...

Hello there!

Oh my goodness! I really love historical poems and this was a good one. I felt the narrator's exhaustion, lack of motivation, and aversion towards the cotton mill job he/she was forced to do. I'm not sure if it is intentional or you forgot to put it, but there should be question marks? Your words were "Who would want to work..." so at the end of the message there should be a question mark. Also, you should remove the letter "s" on "freedoms" because it's an abstract idea or if you plan to talk about freedom in general. Unless, you were pertaining to the four freedoms.

Besides that, I love your poem and the imagery you got there, especially "Along with the feet of filthy rats" because I really felt the horrible work environment he/she has.



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120 Reviews

Points: 1749
Reviews: 120

Sun Mar 29, 2020 8:49 pm
JesseWrites wrote a review...

I liked this. The tone was different, but it captured the meaning perfectly. It had a mood that made me feel sad. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but I can't grip it. You did it wonderfully.

The cash was a little off, but that is confusing. I had a good time reading this poem. I experienced many emotions.

Keep it up!

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27 Reviews

Points: 311
Reviews: 27

Sat Mar 28, 2020 10:14 pm
silverquill12 wrote a review...

One thing I loved was your use of repetition. That was really well done. The descriptions were on point, and I feel the overall mood and tone really encapsulates the necessity yet evil of child labor back then. I feel that the fact this takes place in front of a door is very poignant. It shows the threshold and the decisions the narrator could make. In the end, they turn the handle, because they have no other choice. Some things I noticed: mentioning money can be tricky in historical fiction, because of inflation and all that. 50 cents was a lot more then than it is now. (adjusting for inflation, it would be around 13 dollars, which is higher than some state's minimum wages!) I know I didn't have to, but I did, and I took it upon myself to research what their wages would be like, and apparently the average was 1 dollar a week (20 cents per day). So that was kind of a thing I noticed, mostly because I'm a stickler for facts. Not everyone will notice, it was just something I did and wanted to point out mostly out of interest. You can disregard that if you wish. I think it would be interesting to dive deeper into the setting of a cotton mill, since you've specified it already. Sure, all factories were dirty and dangerous. But didn't cotton mills have lung risks, because of all the cotton dust (I feel like I read that somewhere)? Or perhaps you could allude to a real, well known cotton mill in your description. Anyways, I really enjoyed this. I love historical fiction and I really loved this poem.

Lia5Giba says...

Thank you, really! And thanks for taking the time to do a bit of research :D. I wrote this in the seventh grade, so it's definitely not perfect. But I'll make some adjustions. Thank you so much!

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.
— Mark Twain