Lords of the Loom, Lords of the Lash

by Mary Ann Mayer

The beatings
The cleaning of flax and cotton
The carding engine
Boards with teeth moving in opposite directions
The pulling of cotton through teeth to comb it
Grooming the fibers for spinning into yarn
Stretching, twisting, spinning yarn into thread
Wound onto spools then unwound again to make the warp
The weaving of the cloth:
The bringing together of warp and weft
The weaving, the unweaving…the unweaving

The Civil War
Threatens good slave-grown southern cotton
and “Cotton Fever,” the hunger for calico
and profit raging in the north—
For King Cotton, an unholy Union forms:
Planters and flesh-mongers of the south
Textile magnates of the north
Mill owners, flesh-mongers—
The lords of the loom and the lords of the lash—
The engine of freight and cash
Feeding the country’s insatiable need for
Printed cloth
Printed money…

Like a train
Like hounds in pursuit
This mill machine and field army
Once set in motion
Will never be stopped
Nor abolished
Vow the lords of the loom and the lords of the lash


Photograph by Frank Gorga
Photograph by Frank Gorga from “Autumnal Abstracts” series



“Lords of The Loom, Lords of The Lash” was previously published in Kissing the Shuttle –A Lyric History (Blackstone River Books, 2018).