Summer 2023

The Blue Collar Review is a quarterly journal of poetry and prose published by Partisan Press. Our mission is to expand and promote
a progressive working class vision of culture that inspires us and that moves us forward as a class. The work presented is
only a sampling from the magazine. Subscriptions are $20.00 yearly, or $7.00 for a single issue.
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Poetry Samples from the Latest Issue

Worker XL-1T-05R

Like the cans and bottles, bags and boxes
in this huge warehouse, I bear a number
instantly traceable, always answerable
to the role assigned me. Icy, digital orders
from afar determine my purpose and actions:
lift, carry, pack, return, lift carry, pack.
My job is chained to my body, and only
in dreams do I sense my true worth.

I took the wages bait, discounting fair warnings
like those who build in an earthquake zone
and later pay the price. Thus I've become
little more than a faceless unit of production
lost in the soullessness of some
all-embracing force bent on dictating
every aspect of life -- Go. Stop. Buy, Sell.
Give. Take. Build. Destroy. Reproduce. Kill.

I'm a product keeping other products
in place and on task so that in some lofty
financial heaven, accumulating wealth can
continue to glorify itself. I stay because
I need the job, though I can see a day
when my number won't be needed.
And how long before the directive comes
to replace the mass of human workers
with fleshless legions of mind?

       Darrell Petska

Trying to Find a Friend

In an office a man who needs a job sits
being grilled
by a supervisor leaned back in a soft leather swivel chair
running his eyes over the man's application with its addresses
of former employers and references from former supervisors
and lists of machines the man can run
and reasons for leaving former jobs
and the supervisor studies the man's face
like a detective looking for clues of guilt and asks him
what his hobbies are and what he thinks of unions or
company picnics or socialism
or Jesus.
as he never stops staring
into the man's eyes like a Spanish Inquisition torturer
when all the man wants
is to be blessed with a chance to put his hands around
the hands of a machine
a machine
that never asks him any questions never cares
if he's a Christian or a Buddhist or an atheist of thinks
Elvis is still alive
a machine
that is full of tool steel worm screws and plates and rubber
belts and grease
and cuts steel and aluminum and titanium and brass
so a man can eat
a machine
bolted to a concrete floor and there for a man each morning
no matter if he has a hangover
or his wife just left him or he likes to camp out
in the Mojave desert and look for flying saucers or
comes to work some days
wearing one brown shoe and one black
just a machine
that lets him make a bolt for a submarine
or a valve for a slide trombone or the tip of a cane
for a blind man
so he can know there's a place and a use for him in this world
under the streetcar wires
and the stars
a machine
that never asked a man to fill out an application
or swear allegiance to a flag or believe in Alcoholics Anonymous
or Heaven
or Hell
just a machine
that could soon become the man's lifelong best

       Fred Voss

Some Jobs you'll Never Get Out in the Wash

Like cobwebs swept into balls by dragging
a wiggling ass through crawl spaces, the mix
of fryer oil and what cuts fryer oil
off floors and walls while grills cool down.
My wife, on her hands and knees, furious
scrubbing, working little crud bits off tight
black pants, getting fresh before a Friday
double. The first two years of kids sharing
too much between lunch and silent reading
sessions. At home. I had to strip first things
first, my tie and pants on the ground
before the front latch echoes quit
bouncing down the hall, Remember
the wreck a job would make of an outfit?
Just the fact of work settled on it, stinking
up the fibers, made stiff and deadly like
when groceries were terrifying and, after
we delivered them, someone quarantined
our bags, hoping sunshine or time or God's
roulette wheel overpowered the residue
of hands, the fact of human touch, passing
food like death. It was more familiar to some
than others, this contamination, lingering
memories of a few bodies doing what
bodies do to get doings done.

       Ryan McCarty

Working Mother

You tell me about diaper/cereal mornings
going on the bus bus bus world bus
way out there to friends school
where you taught Spanish all day
carrying your oldest (and only) then
to the nursery there

What's that, twenty miles? Thirty?
Feels like fifty. There aren't
bullet trains. I'm talking about
thirty stops bus
maybe come, maybe don't
comes when it does not breathing
slugs designed to discourage
all but the poorest with
dark lives
most people wouldn't take a bus here
two miles to the grocery to fill their bellies
much less to a job, school, Job? Don't
I was hard, dragging my
children up like I had to, so when
the gifts of the world come to our
gifted children, our best gifts, Our
gifts to the world.
They feel they aren't worthy
and the world doesn't fit them.

We have to keep telling them
they are

going soul and body where no being
had been before.

My life made me hard.
I wish it hadn't. How are these grown
children such gorgeous quivering orchids
in this place, and out of us
finding lives.
            They will.

      Mary Franke


The immigrant besmirched
with chicken blood
in a "processing plant"
in Alabama is only 16 years old
when machinery goes awry
and he enlists as the latest
apprentice to die. Supposedly
it's illegal to hire
someone that young for
dangerous jobs, but isn't
every worker killed
in the accidentally-on-purpose
planning of CEOs
underage? Perhaps not
as young as Carlos Moncayo
was when a ditch caved in,
but how old do you have to be
before you stop wondering
if you'll make it home
when you leave for
work as the sun notches
itself on the horizon
like a lemon wedge
on a cold drink
you'll only be able
to imagine yourself
sipping halfway
through your shift.

       Bill Mohr

The Real Threat

Our food is
full of poisons

Our rivers and lakes
are toxic and the seas
dying dumps

The air is
making us sick

You feel ill but
can't afford a doctor

Nuclear war looms
the threat growing daily

Your children
are obese, autistic, with gender issues and ADD

The trains carrying poisons
keep running through your town derailing
and now
they're fracking --

the ground shakes and
the tap water burns

You live in fear of destitution

You dread what the weather will bring

The enemy that threatens us all --
is immigrant refugees?

     Al Markowitz

At the Board

At our E Board this week,
after the President's report and the holiday party,
a go around before the close
about the question,


Important one too, as the President
pointedly said,
because the secretaries
the union was seeking to organize
were asking about it.

And so it was each of us answered,
or tried to, one after the other,
-- clericals, laborers, interpreters,
librarians, stenographers.

executive local members
of LOCAL 1070, DC 37, AFCME all,

our VP started the ball rolling --
insurance you can count on,
these days everyone knows
what health insurance costs.

continued the Clericals Chair

said the Treasurer;
if you have a union negotiating,
on average, you make 20 percent more.

And, while we're at it,
the Treasurer continued,
don't forget the DISCOUNTS
from cell phone plans
to car rentals,
why, along with the classes,

But, it was the Steward
of the Interpreters Chapter,
her hand steadily raised and called upon
after everyone else, who said,


      Chris Butters


America once pounded the chest that covered a heart
filled with hate

With the vicious strength of the slaver, the vanquisher of native people and women oppressor

But that time and day is now going away

We are much more than the white men of property
who declared independence and liberty

Black people once enslaved still struggle for freedom

American Indians still looking for their place
that was stolen away

Women fight for the fundamental right to
govern their own bodies

Workers still organize to fight for the security of their families

Now the hate left from long gone days weakens the country

The walls and barriers once erected to deny most of us
the promise of the words of the Constitution

The lies we all told ourselves about the divinity of our greed
and the righteousness of oppression, genocide and cruelty

Are all crumbling into dust and bits of stone
The walls and barriers will not hold
The patchwork quilt that we are is rising
beyond the evil power of our past.

       Stewart Acuff

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