AfroPoets Famous Writers

My Mother Enters the Work Force

The path to ABC Business School
was paid for by a lucky sign:
Alterations, Qualified Seamstress
Inquire Within.

Tested on Sleeves, hers
never puckered -- puffed or sleek,
Leg o' or Raglan -- they barely
needed the damp cloth
to steam them perfect.

Those were the afternoons.
Evenings she took in piecework,
the treadle machine with its
locomotive whir traveling the lit path
of the needle through quicksand
taffeta or velvet deep as a forest.

And now and now sang the treadle,
I know, I know....

And then it was day again,
all morning at the office machines,
their clack and chatter
another journey -- rougher,
that would go on forever
until she could break a hundred words
with no errors -- ah, and then

No more postponed groceries,
and that blue pair of shoes!

Written by Rita Dove


Rita Dove Poets Page