Conveyor (Bean There)

Pigments (2)


I replaced a defective mechanical arm once
on the night shift at the Bird’s Eye factory
in Eastbourne, England.

The arm swept the green beans from the main chute into side conveyors
where ladies wearing hair nets
separated the good beans from the bad.

It was the top conveyor,
so I was in full view of the workers below
as I moved my arm back and forth
sweeping beans in a poor imitation of a mechanical arm.

My fellow student workers threw beans at me
and the ladies in hair nets shouted “get a move on, Paddy”;
my name isn’t ‘Paddy’
but that’s what English people called Irish people back then.

Time moved like molasses
time dragged its feet like a moody teenager
time passed like a wet Sunday in Belfast

On the way home in the early morning,
we stole milk bottles from doorsteps,
just because we could.


Taking part in Open Link Night over at dVerse, check them out here.


24 thoughts on “Conveyor (Bean There)

  1. lillian

    I love everything about the tale you are telling here….and most especially the last two stanzas. You’ve made the scene live by your words. Here in Boston, there was a time when want ads in the paper included the words “Irish need not apply.” I hadn’t though about that in years. That line about milk bottles on the doorsteps tells us this occurred some years ago!


  2. Glenn Buttkus

    /Time passed like a wet Sunday in Belfast/–lovely internal rhyme. This kind of tale might lend itself to the Haibun form


    1. sdtp33 Post author

      Thank you for your always insightful comments, Glenn….yes a halibun might work with this or similar material…although I had a bout of tanka’s and haiku recently and I’m giving those forms a rest for a while! JIM


  3. kim881

    I like the way you’ve conveyed the monotony of a conveyor belt (!) and working on the night shift. I’ve never worked in a factory but I can imagine what it’s like, Jim. Fancy replacing a mechanical arm, though! I love the phrases:
    ‘Time moved like molasses
    time dragged its feet like a moody teenager
    time passed like a wet Sunday in Belfast’.
    Didn’t most night workers steal their morning cereal milk from doorsteps back in the day?


  4. Steve Simpson

    A perfect depiction, Jim, a place and a mood that made me sigh. I can’t speak about racism, but I worked on a production line packing magazines, and feared that whatever the other workers had might have been contagious. Late one night we stole garden gnomes for the same reason.


  5. robtkistner

    Fascinating poem Jim. I enjoyed joining you at your work! And you were quite the hooligan were you not… stealing that milk, babies going without, and cereal dry as Death Valley…


  6. Therisa Godwaldt

    The worse shift to work, has to be the midnight shift, as your internal clock get messed up. Having worked several years, of this shift, with various companies. As for this poem, I love the way that you describe a bygone era that has passed away. Thank you, Jim, for sharing these experiences.



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