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The Post and Courier Prize

Linda Annas Ferguson

 

Rituals

It’s a quarter past four in the morning.
In every corner of the mill, screaming
machines shake old and oily floors.
The whole room vibrates. Willie pauses

at the end of an aisle, dusts cotton lint
from both sleeves, his hair. He reaches
through moving gears with his hands,
ties loose ends, fibers flying,
renegotiates the rhythm of repetition.

At five, he will have a cup of coffee,
short smoke by the time clock.
He dreams of leaving, running away
from debt and duty. It’s the loud roar
of his thoughts that keeps him here.

Later, he will remark how the sky
looks like rain as he races ahead
of a cloud, opens the door
to rented rooms, wife still asleep,

hangs his coat on the nail by the stove,
stokes coals, stirs remains
of the fire, pokes at restless flames.