Mill

Jan 25, 2019

Today’s poem is “Mill” by Kristen Lindquist. Kristen lives in her hometown of Camden. She received her MFA from the University of Oregon. She's the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Tourists in the Known World: New & Selected Poems. 

She writes, “When you tell people you're from Camden, they think of sailing yachts and wealthy retirees. But Camden was originally a mill town, even though the mill buildings that remain standing are now home to shops and condos. My family included millworkers; that's the Camden I come from. Ironically, our house now is in the part of town still known as Millville. I haven't escaped at all.”

Mill
by Kristen Lindquist

I can only mine
the landscape for so much:
oak’s gnarled branches
blocking a mountain view,
roar of mill’s waterfall
filling my ears,
ducks clustered, unmoving
on sodden grass.
My grandfather
once painted this mill’s
peeling smokestack.
My uncle worked
in the mill before
it became condos and shops,
his life governed by
the factory whistle
and the beer at shift’s end.
As a child I woke nightly
when the fire station alarm
blared once at 9:45,
curfew of a past generation.
The firemen had visited
our school, given us all
red plastic fire hats.
I had my escape route
all worked out, knew
exactly which stuffed animals
I’d bring with me.
I can’t picture it now,
where I slept in that tiny
apartment with my mother
and great-grandmother.
The river won’t let me
think. It keeps telling me,
Don’t go back there.
You’ve escaped.

Poem copyright © 2018 Kristen Lindquist.