At the Factory Where My Mother Worked
Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Once when I was seventeen, I visited the factory
where my mother worked. It was on the second floor
up a flight of narrow, rickety stairs, and when I opened
the door, the noise of sewing machines slapped my face.

I searched for my mother in the close-packed row
of women bent over their sewing. The floor manager
picked up one of the pieces my mother had finished,
screamed, “You call this sewing?” and threw the coat

on the floor. The tables were lit by bare light bulbs,
dangling down on cords. I had never seen the place
where my mother worked. She thought we should be
protected from all that was ugly and mean

in the grown-up world. “Children should be children,”
she’d say. “They’ll learn trouble soon enough.
We don’t need to tell them about it.” She did not answer
the floor walker. Instead she bent her head over her sewing,

but not before I saw the shame in her face.


Maria Mazziotti Gillan is a recipient of AWP’s 2014 George Garrett Award, Poets & Writers’ 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, and the 2008 American Book Award. She is founder/executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College, and director of creative writing/professor of English at Binghamton University-SUNY. 

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