Winter 2021-22

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

Disappearing Act

If you wish to disappear
snap on a uniform with your
name embroidered on a patch
above your pocket.

Next, walk the hall of the
luxury hotel where strangers
will ask if you have come
to fix the HVAC.

Or the Internet.

Do not tell them you are
the keynote speaker for
the conference below
stay invisible, with your
name sewn upon your shirt.

      Lyle Estill

The Code

When I was a young programmer
My boss insisted I code
Every COBOL paragraph as
An archaic and prone to error
Programming architecture.    It wasn't
That he had a reason,
Or that he was traditional,
Or that something about the job
Required an approach elsewhere
Long since, for improved methods,
Abandoned. He was simply stupid
And in power.
Tells you all you need to know about
How the earth works, how often
The earth cracks for reasons
Unknown to common folk,
Obvious to specialists.

      Ken Poyner

Normal is Just a Setting on the Dryer

one half of folks talkin' 'bout life
going back to normal; one half talkin'
'bout the new normal; third half talkin'
'bout there's no such thing
as normal,
normal is a new york state of mind.
so it's back to the new normal
for clerks and stock-workers
at the dollar tree & dollar store
& cub & sam's club & tar-zay superstore
& wallyworld supercenter, senior citizens standing
at the front door greeting us with open arms &
plastered smiles while clerks ring up mega-rolls
of butt paper & hand sanitizer just enough hours
to get a lower medical assistance spend-down but not
enough to qualify for benefits, still non-essential
workers making less than $15/hour, fighting
for those indirect, non-cash, cash compensations
paid to an employee above & beyond
regular salary or wages, as if health insurance, unemployment
insurance, life insurance, vacation pay, holiday
pay & personal days
are luxuries instead of essential oils
cuz it still ain't over 'til it's
over since we never reached herd immunity although
some of us had no problem reaching herd stupidity
when it came down to wearing masks & social distancing.

does going back to normal mean it's okay for
three percenters
oath keepers, proud boys
the texas freedom force
Qanon, a green beret
some who served
in the army, some who served
in the navy, some who served
in the air force, a few good some
who served in the marines, some
police chiefs, police officers, retired
police officers, some fire fighters &
retired fire fighters showed out
at the capitol with assault
weapons & semiautomatics
to falsify a legal election ignited
by a has-been megalomaniac & none
were murdered or knocked
to the ground with a gun pointed
at their heads or maced with pepper
spray while the Black Lives Matter
movement has been labeled
a terrorist group
"all lives matter" & "blue lives
matter" appropriating the acronym.
if BLM protesters
had stormed the capitol they wouldn't've
gotten past the first step & the government
would be counting
body bags & not the number of those indicted.
the house of representatives of our country's
citizens approved a bill to create a select committee
to investigate the insurrection, after senate
republicans blocked
a measure to form an independent commission
but normal? . . . it ain't over 'til
the last spin dry!!
will it be normal for racist
& sexist policies to be put into place by racists & sexists
& misogynists & homophobes & transphobes &
xenophobes who don't die but multiply
while their wives & wives & husbands -- & candace owens --
stand by waving old glory & baking apple pies
wearing heels & pearls. from at least 2 prohibitions on
gender-affirming medical treatment and athletics
to at least 389 bills in 48 states the setting is turned to
high heat.
in this new normal. but it ain't over 'til it's over 'til the last
spin dry.

going back to normal the setting is turned to(o) high
anxiety for Black mothers -- when their Black sons & Black daughters
leave home to buy pop & tampons -- who make sure
to restate their love
in case their children go viral from a bystander's video
for not being able to breathe & crying out for their mommas
because you have to be brave
enough to breathe
while Black in the old normal
or will there be a new normal
when a rogue cop gets a 22 year prison sentence
for murdering a Black citizen
in this land
of the free and home of the brave.
but it ain't over 'til it's over and the setting
is turned to delicate with
cool down in the last cycle

back to normal stigmatizing those living productive
lives with mental illness, too afraid to disclose
their disorders
for fear of being labeled dangerous
or crazy
while 1 in 4 americans lives with a serious, persistent
mental illness & that number (probably)
increased in 2020,
a year that more than demonstrated we're all mental
beings who need love & human touch
to fully exist physically & mentally. so in the new
normal, with the setting on high heat, how many of us
are wrinkled from lack of a hand being extended
like a holly branch
or lips being pursed into a kiss.

but it ain't over 'til it's over & there's still time
for us to love,
make love,
love to love you, baby, as
donna summer sang & she ain't
the fat lady.

will it be normal to "de-" normalize those with different
we all have unique ways of traversing life's many paths
from Point A to Point B,
in wheelchairs or pushing walkers,
with walking sticks or guide dogs,
signing or speaking in tongues,
I understand every word
you say & am capable of responding to
your answers
about what I can & will do if the light
of life turns red, stop,
look, listen
to your heart, hear what it's saying,
so sang the stylistics in matching three-piece
suits & polyester shirts with wide lapels open
at the collar, each dip-step
choreographed, precisely executed & the women
swooned. it ain't over 'til it's over, when will all
abilities be on the normal/permanent press cycle.

normal is a setting on a dryer, cool down tumbling
us around in a silver drum of prejudice & racism.
we want to return to normal like returning
to the good old days when abnormal was a sub-
species of white,
YA & middle-aged
with their own water fountains to quench their thirst.
New normal is insurrection
Old normal is protests. We want a new york minute
of normalcy for every five when everyone who has
a different state of mind is considered
Who they are not
What label they are
spin dry, cool down and off.

      Davida Kilgore

Public Service Initiative

"We're from the Mayor's Office
of Emergency Management," I smiled
at the elderly Black lady
cowering behind the front door
of her dilapidated rowhouse
in the rundown urban neighborhood
that I'd just pounded like a warning.
"We're here to see if you need
any smoke detectors or energy efficient
light bulbs, or if you need your blood
pressure taken or anything."

Volunteer work with the fire department,
health officials, public works and cops.
Yet people had warned me:
wear your kevlar vest
when you're in that neighborhood!

But it seems I was the predator,
the threatening outsider,
not some gang member or hoodlum
come to prey on the weak.
Hesitant, not sure whether to trust
the lime-green vest and ballcap
with something about the city
in white block letters on the visor,
the old woman weighed the alternatives
like blindfolded justice: free services
or an intrusive government busybody --
there to fine, threaten, or scold?

"We fine," the quavering voice
finally announced.
"We don't need nothin'."

I nodded and left, feeling like a fraud.

      Charles Rammelkamp

War Poems

The teacher reads Vietnam war poetry
to her students: poems from those who stood
to go and those who stood to say no.
They yawn, slouch, doze. They make a play
of only sitting up straight for the gory parts:
legs in boots still tightly laced; a head
in a helmet; red craters where the shells
landed. The teacher gets angry. Why
does it take blood to wake you up?
she asks,

pointing at them with her pencil. A boy
who never smiles even when he smiles, says,
What's war about anyway, dance lessons?
Since this happened before they were born,
in a color on a map, to people now buried
under words or old with whispers, they wonder
what the fuck any of this poetry algebra
has to do with their lives. The teacher frowns,
jabs her finger into the dry sky of the book.
They need to see history, to understand it,

so wars like Vietnam cannot happen again.
They turn from blackboard to dusty windows.
There's a war going on right here, around
any corner. A boy shot over a can of Pepsi,
a girl beaten to death because she talked
to the wrong guy. Too many songs start
with sirens or end with the sound
of a hovering helicopter. Born shell shocked,
they walk home past body count graffiti scratched
into bricks or names painted over one another

for generations -- the fine print of the dead.
On the shitty TV in the 24 hour Laundromat
in a clean world of nice things they will never have.
Men with new cars and guns count money,
smile at the girls, beckon the boys.
The police occupy the streets, like soldiers
from another country. So many fingers,
so many triggers, competing for your chalk line.
Kids who live in a hallway, in a car
permanently parked behind a warehouse --
they know where the DMZ is. The teacher says,
This isn't a movie, you know.
These things really happened, to real people.
They look at each other and shrug, make faces.
How can they make this teacher understand
they don't have time to study any war
bigger than the one they take to school,
that follows them everywhere like homework
they've already failed? They try to tell her

about their wars. Wars with bottles or mirrors.
All the invisible wars that fill the silences.
Or the war their parents fight on the job,
with the boss, or the war they fight at home,
with each other. But the teacher
hasn't learned how to listen, keeps fighting
for control, to keep the conversation
on a Leash, before conclusions get dangerous.
They want to know, who is the poet
of fire escapes and jobs that pay so little
you can't make the rent? They want to know
on what shelf they can reach are those books
being kept? A girl raises her hand, asks:

But don't wars like Vietnam always happen again,
for reasons always differently the same?
I mean, there is a war on right now.
What are books someday going to say about that?
Look, says the teacher, you're getting mixed up.
Hear what I'm saying. We're not talking
about now or the future.

We're talking about History.
The teacher had a boyfriend who went to Vietnam.
He came back but she married someone else.
They know that war too.

       Robert Edwards

Stalled in Hesitation before the Flames
of Involvement

I need to get on the curb
I need to get on the bus
Hear the people talking
But I know what they'll say
                    They'll say NO
with their busted lives and old VA struggles
on the bus going to clinics, hospitals, schools
                        work, nowhere
with their hopeful scared eyes            they
don't               want        war
except the lone rangers        out there
in their pick-up trucks roaming
              full of heat

You have to stand back
they whiz by enjoying
making bus-waiters and peace freaks
jump back
When you go to the revolution, Mama,
who will bring you your tea?

My children used to say

I will go to the curb, the bus       knowing
my walls are only so strong as
any egg on earth
        or orb in nuclearized space.

     Mary Franke

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