The stuff of dreams 1970 – A Poem by Kathryn Southworth

The stuff of dreams 1970

In this dingy warehouse on the bypass
we deal in dreams.

Mostly we stuff envelopes, with four enclosures –
promotionals, return envelope, terms and conditions
and the pools coupon itself,
white with blue boxes to put the x
and place your bet.
Then you wait till Saturday
and if you’re lucky, send your claim.
(The office upstairs deals with that.)

We make five piles. I work from right to left
scooping across each line into brown envelopes
that stack inside a box.

Tuesday is banging day when boxes
are brought back to be addressed.
You get to know some far-flung placenames –
mine are in Derbyshire.
Fit the metal plate, slap down the handle.
(It makes quite a din in in the cavernous room.)
All’s ready to be sent.

Fridays we open post.
We don’t have to tear our nails on the envelopes –
a clever machine’s already made a nick,
so we insert a biro to tear it open,
flatten out the sides, staple the contents.
There are bonuses for this
but a talking to if the cheques and coupons
get mis-matched.

Big Jean, the Head Girl, knows all the ins and outs –
she’s on twenty pounds a week.
The other girls content to follow her instructions.
And I’m the student. I’ll put up with anything
for all of six weeks a year – and enough
for Leonard Cohen’s next LP.

All the girls know my dreams – the get-away
that university will bring. They don’t mind a bit.
They ask me out with them on Friday nights.
Once we went to Hair and watched the fit lads
get all their kit off.
It’s the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

Kathryn Southworth was born in Lancashire and has lived in the Midlands, London and has now settled in Stroud, Gloucestershire. She was an academic and Founding Fellow of the English Association and is an Honorary Fellow of Rose Bruford College of Drama and Theatre Arts. Since retirement she has published four books of poetry and her work has appeared in many anthologies and magazines and been shortlisted in several international competitions. Twitter: @elmvillagepoet

Banner Art: Nu-Cityscape, a visual poem by Robert Frede Kenter (2022). Twitter: @frede_kenter.

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