26 May 2024
  • 26 May 2024

Donna Matthew: We Just Thought We Were Superhuman

on 30 April 2022 0

This poem by Donna Matthew is inspired by An Oral History of Noise and Piecework in Paisley’s Thread Mills by William Burns.

Paisley was the mills and the mills were Paisley
when childhood was a vast sky of wishes.
She walked out of the school gates on a Friday
willingly into the industrial machine.
Expected, like the doff of a cap on a benevolent Sunday.

The Coates and Clarks took their labours first
before hard births and hard lives.
Women’s bodies work,
superhuman, bent in reverence,
the pathos of the Paisley Mills.

The textile flat assaults the senses,
a vast expanse textured with toil.
Thoughts swallowed, speech robbed,
deafening,
like the thunderclap of a freight train.

Eyes search for solace.
Not schoolmaster but foreman
tells her “You’ll be alright”
as spindles shuttle violently casting fibres left and right,
no time allotted to consider or complain.

Observers glance back with an academic “aye”,
flex their minds on exploitation, injury to the wealth creators,
false paternalism of the accumulators.
But memory serves, camaraderie, and laughter
as the sounds of the distinctive Paisley teardrop.



Donna Matthew set up the Poets in Paisley collective in 2021 to create a space for new and emerging Poets to perform their work. Contact Donna on Instagram or email do****************@gm***.com if you’re interested in finding out more.

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