Found Poem – Cotton

I once worked at a historical park where my supervisor (a woman) was a curator.  She once told me that if she ever had to catalog another doily, she would throw up.  She just didn’t think that domestic crafts by ordinary people were worthy of inclusion in our collection.

That really surprised me.  I was raised to believe that all handwork was something very special, and I certainly expected that a curator would think so too.

One of my big reasons for writing is to honor the daily work and pastimes of those same people, the ones she thought didn’t rate inclusion in a museum.  I leave it to real experts to collect and research the trend-setters or historically important people; I’m just here to show my affection and respect for the ” run-of-the-mill.”

So here is tonight’s attempt, a found poem.  All these words and phrases are from a 1915 book with a very un-poetical name, Textiles: A Handbook for the Student and Consumer (MacMillan).  I left out lots of words, and repeated some, but I didn’t add any, and I left them in the same order as they appear in the book.

cotton picking, 1915

USDA image of cotton picking in 1915


Planted from March until May
 unexpected frost
 long wet season
 ruin an entire planting
Must be repeated
Diseases attack
 insect enemies injure the growth
 ruin the entire crop
Anxious hours

The moment displays
 its seed cotton ripe
Picking must begin
 done by hand
Men, women, and children
 at work in the fields
 early morning
 until late at night
Able to discriminate
 between ripe and unripe
Must be repeated
late July until frost

Machines have been invented -
almost human -
but nothing has been
adopted for this purpose

A picker can gather
 two hundred pounds a day
Early morning until late at night
late July until frost
November or even December
Long sacks slung on the shoulder
 trailing after
He goes along on padded knees
Must be repeated

One hundred pounds of cotton -
forty or fifty cents
Sixteen million bales
five hundred pounds each
thirty-four million acres
Must be repeated