Following a visit to Kidderminster Museum of Carpet, I felt inspired to write two poems using the language of the carpet trade. I’m posting the first one today and the second one will appear tomorrow. The museum is a wonderful place celebrating, as it does, the history of the carpet trade and its workers. The very first poem, Reeking Dyes, that I wrote after one of Heather Wastie’s workshops in the museum can be seen here.
The Museum’s Tale
In the museum it’s twilight
that time between day and night.
And soon, when all has gone quiet,
a shade begins to alight.
Down the stairs in silence,
no one sees Eliza’s flight,
swift towards the factory floor,
a figure pale and upright.
Ghostly shimmerings glister
on a frame so slender and slight.
She used to shuttle a freestanding loom
when she was a tiny mite.
Her art was handloom weaving,
the cold seeped, that was her plight,
she learned her trade on the job, like them all,
her bones, they ached like spite.
Apprenticed to a weaver,
Eliza feared the dark,
in winter, a candle lit her way,
she was always up with the lark.
Household chores were tended
before she went to her loom,
the fatty scent of tallow
went with her: a rose in bloom.
Now halfway down the staircase,
she beckons as if to invite
her lover to join her on the stairs,
a man so straight and forthright;
Joe had the voice of the workers,
the members who dared to unite.
He was hauled over the carpet,
she on tenterhooks with fright.
Payment reduced for one yard of Brussels,
the workers now on strike,
Joe starved rather than return,
but he returns tonight.
He rejoins his Eliza,
they drift like tufts down the stairs,
they love the museum, the light, the shade,
for telling this tale of theirs.
Polly Stretton © September 2015