On the sweatshop floor, I work making pleats.
Tiny calloused fingertips spread, staple
soft hibiscus flowers of silk petals;
my hands whir, my arms bony thin, palest.
This skirt will go in a boutique pastel,
rich ladies sipping tea on china plates.
Long shift, I will never eat on those plates,
grateful my uncle knew someone, make pleats.
Small amount of money, fine blooms pastel
late, late tonight I’ll eat cold rice staple
and rest on my bare straw mat, arms palest,
dreaming of fields of hibiscus petals.
Perfectly I sew, again the petals.
I must do well, working on smooth steel plates!
The single bare bulb above burns palest.
I squint as I fold lining up my pleats
thankful for work; many have no staple
living life in black and white sans pastel.
Careful not to drop a stitch, cloth pastel,
I daydream as I form the fine petals.
Supervisor glares, hard work the staple!
Sweat shop hours eternity, steel plates
warming beneath my lithe hands making pleats;
little care for my thin body palest.
How I yearn to be free, smiling, palest.
Machines clamor, bodies smell, cloth pastel
amidst this human maelstrom, making pleats
drawing cloth into hibiscus petals.
Oh, to be dressed fine, eat on china plates
richest food taken for granted, staple!
Who in the entire world sees my staple
bony arms thin, whitest skin the palest?
Automatically, I warm the steel plates
careful not to stain with sweat silk pastel.
Is there a life beyond sewing petals?
I sew in all my heart there making pleats.
Hardest work ever staple, blooms pastel
blossom amidst the palest of petals.
All the while, on bare steel plates, I make pleats.
—Robert Moreland, Pleasant Prairie, WI