ROOM 42 ( by Susan McCartney )


The fog crept on kitten-cat paws

A comforting grey blanket

Holding a hint Of frost and coal dust

‘Bye Mam. See you later.’

Maggie, 17, might have called

Closing the door

heading for her last shift

at National Filling Factory No 1

Tuesday, 5th December, 1916

The fog, tiger-like

padded around Barnbow

A yellow miasma

engorged with TNT and cordite,

Staining skin entering lungs and livers

tapping sulphurous claws

on doors, windows

Widows Of Filling Factory No 1 watching

Waiting For the inevitable

Then,,10.27 pm

With a monster roar

It came

Earth and ear shattering

with screams

Scattered limbs,

hisses of scalding water running scarlet

Plumes of toxic fumes

and the smell of blood

The fog sucked it in

that scene designed by Dante.

Then satisfied with its carnage,

It turned yellow eyes

towards the city

whilst those remaining

picked up the pieces

Of Room 42

By Susan McCartney

Foot Note: The explosion, in Room 42 of the munitions factory at Barnbow, took the lives of 35 girls and women. Many more died later of shock, their injuries, and TNT poisoning. Some unidentified. They were nicknamed the ‘Canaries’ because of their yellow skin – chemicals having entered their livers. It was a foggy night. A veil of secrecy was drawn over the dreadful event. The full facts remain shrouded. Even now. Maggie Barker, 17, from Kippax. A victim.

(This is original work presented at Writers Assemble who meet fortnightly at The Junction Pub,Castleford,West Yorkshire.The group is a community development project of Destiny Poets)

This entry was posted in Poetry and tagged on by .

About Louis Kasatkin

Unadulterated commentary and analyses on all aspects of contemporary literary arts news and topics, can be viewed on twitter under the cunning guise of @louiskasatkin also at my blogs,"fahrenheit451"on and "And So It Goes"@ My facebook page etc.etc, ad infinitum...

5 thoughts on “ROOM 42 ( by Susan McCartney )

  1. Amita Paul

    Hair raising account of a ghastly tragedy , this poem succeeds in conveying the horrors that millions of workers face the world over as capitalism morphs into neoliberalism and the post truth era tales over

    The sense of helplessness before an inexorable fate that this Juggernaut has unleashed is palpable in this poem with an Eliotesque style of imagery and narrative
    Reminiscent of
    “ The Fog crept up …., “ in the Preludes


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *