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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Wrote this and the last poem after watching a documentary about Asian sweatshops, which ended by saying that we had not had such sweatshops in Australia since the 1960s. Wrong! I worked in horrific sweatshops in the 1970s and early '80s, and they still exist in and around Melbourne to this day!

Submitted: January 27, 2011

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 27, 2011



There was a time back around ‘76
When I found myself virtually a slave,
Working in an evil sweatshop in Footscray
In a factory known as Modern Maid.

Modern Maid was down Gordon Street
A factory making sinks, pipes, and white goods
But ‘stead of making them to a high standard
As any reputable firm would:

 They had a working bee twice a year
To make the next six months’ stuff,
But as it all stood out in the elements
As the months did pass they began to rust.

So the factory did have five giant vats
And when each day’s orders came in,
They burnt the rust of in vats of acid
Until what was left was paper thin.

Bath tubs literally a millimetre thick
So thin you’d think they could be no use,
For the first time someone took a bath
As in they stepped they’d fall straight through.

But they had a way to protect against this
A method simple yet effective too,
By spraying on a very thick layer of enamel paint
The girth had been trebled; the baths just safe to use.

The vats had two of acid, two of alkali, one of water
In turn baths, sinks et cetera were all dunked,
Sulphurous fumes would flood the vat room
Until we were all coughing up our lungs.

I stayed there but a single week
In that horrid, steaming, sulphurous Hell,
Still after more than thirty years
It’s an awful time I still remember well.

The fumes, the heat, the awful smells
Dodging occasional acid spills,
Feeling grateful to finish another day
Without that day having been killed.

© Copyright 2011
Philip Roberts

© Copyright 2020 Philip Roberts. All rights reserved.

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