In the Detroit assembly plant men are spraying paint while Martha and the girls run around as though it were a playground. No paint is going to get on her. It’s an amusement park. No one lodges a complaint about them, there are no safety issues at stake. Work can be fun in Motown. Component parts float past, doors, hoods, the whole process starts and finishes here with this song, all in one take. Nowhere to hide, she sings but there are countless places one might shelter behind for a moment or so, and then it all moves forward again, past the faces at their tasks, past the girls themselves, and here we are in ghost town, ready to go and when you’ve gone the whole city dissolves.
George Szirtes was born in Budapest and came to England as a child in 1956. He has published several books of poems including Reel (2004) that won the TS Eliot Prize. His most recent book is Bad Machine (2013), currently shortlisted for the same prize.