Women in a Munitions Factory 1941

See us in overalls kicking these about.  Softs
we call them, great long cigar-looking things.
Eighty five pound shells they come out as.

This is the day they filmed us, made it look easy,
as if levers and pulleys do it,
not like when one clocks you round your nut.

On cranes and lathes,
turners and polishers, bare-arm drillers.
Shopping queues, the family wash.  Then this!

A girl unloads them one by one from the fire,
gloved handsand a rag, one end molten.  Next time
it’ll glow this white’s in Libya or somewhere.

Which is me?  Her in goggles?  That one in high heels?
I hear myself think, The more we make –
the quicker he’ll be back.

Today their majesties are visiting.
We stand in a line, curtsey.
The gaffer looks at his watch.

When the invasion comes you have to
listen for peals of bells dead of night.

What will people think of us – in fifty years,
a hundred, knowing what we don’t?

Sometimes I lie awake in the dark.
I can’t see anything, hear anything.
What’s happening to me?
What am I turning into?

On my way to work I feel alright –
Mrs Southern’s tulips,
her fence freshly creosoted.

We knock off before teatime to get home.
It’s sunny today. Groups of us in the street
You can see me there, shading my eyes.