365 Poems – 152 Shell-Filling Factory Worker (Rough First Draft)

Shell-Filling Factory Worker


Her eyes are flints

first thing in the morning,

before soot has worked its way

into the corners and over

her half globes, smothering all colour.


Her hands are all angles, red raw

and sore, her lips cracked, like the wall

in the backyard, where she smacks

the hearth rug to get rid of dust.


Her hair is set steel tight against

her scalp. Her nose smells war

day in, day out.


She can taste marmalade, sour,

in the centre of a loose tooth

at the back of her mouth.


She feels as if the sun

has melted, and is coursing

through her thick veins.


She knows there are 349 shells

to fill before she is finished.

She needs water, soft bread, a long kiss.


She want the Germans

and the Brits to shake hands.

She want her man back,

unclipping her hair,

kissing the crook of her elbow.


She dreams of the moors,

hiding under heather

until all of this is over.


She remembers life before this life.  


She can’t pause filling shells,

the boss is watching, eyes

like searing forks, stabbing

the back of her head.


She is asking herself,

again and again

if God really does exists.


Later, she will stumble home,

calves like compressed shells.