Smoke and Mirrors

Elaine Hogan 2018

The knocker-upper will wake the workers from their sleep
So before morning is dawning, dew damp and bleak
On tip toe he will tip tap his long cane then tip tap again
Rapping out a rhythm against each grimy window pane.
The bed springs will squeak and the floor boards creak
Dust laden chests will be cleared before folk can speak
The kettle will boil, the tea will be brewed
But time won’t be spared to prepare any food.
Rain swollen doors will soon begin banging
Across cobbles clog irons will be clacking and clanging
Congested chests will cough wheeze and splutter
Many muted voices will moan, mumble and mutter.
The mill workers will leave their homes in their numbers.
Then the rain-laden Valley will arise from its slumbers

The Mornings clatter is shattered by a sound strident and shrill
Alarm, rises like vapour as they rush into the mill,
The hooter hisses, then billows, then bellows, then ceases
As they scurry through the mill gates like crabs reaching beaches,
The engines are fired the machines put in motion
Creating the sound of a storm turbulent ocean
The rush and the roar like the surf on the shore resonates
Rumbles and reverberates, assonates and oscillates
As engine powered pistons pump and pound, vibrating the ground
And the wheels thrum and hum their spinning top sound,
The belts revolve and rotate like bird wing flip flap, flip flap
As looms take up the tune of clickerty clack, clipperty clap
The orchestra amplifies in discord with tempo increasing
Playing on through the day its beat never ceasing.
Back when cotton was King and the valley was gold
Death came long before age and the young folk were old.
King Cotton built a dominion from stone and brick and slate
Until the mills of his vast kingdom covered the landscape
Ten, twenty, thirty factories and then more and more
The towering smoke stack chimneys continued to soar
Plumes rose like flags and spiralled upward to the sky
Unfurling and twirling as the wind swept them by.
Infantries of horsepower drove omnipotent machines
Barons built mansions and lived out their dreams
But as mighty empires rise then so do they fall
It happened to cotton and it happened to coal
And so the proud valley once the jewel in the crown
Crumbled to ashes and dust, just a mucky old town.

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