Spring 2024

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.
Subscribe using the on-line link or send checks to Partisan Press
P.O. 11417 Norfolk, VA 23517.
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Poetry Samples from the Latest Issue

Fair Shares

Dynasties, empires, megalithic corporations
like today's consummate retailer, Amazon,
built on the backs of the overworked and unsung --

I'm thinking about my janitor grandpa
spending his "golden years" evenings and weekends
dusting, washing and waxing floors, shining mirrors,
prying gum and scrubbing forbidden words from our
parochial school desks, plus setting up and taking down
tables and chairs in the parish hall after weddings, funerals,
graduations and retirement parties -- until his fingers
bled and his aging joints complained when he moved.

For a job no one else would accept, the parish
paid my grandpa a pittance, leaving fair recompense
to heaven's boundless coffers of grace.

Grandpa's gone, but poorly paid labor
still cleans the parochial school and parish hall
and buttresses our icons of corporate capitalism.
My kindly, self-effacing grandpa would've sad
"that's just how things are," though the good book he abided by made it abundantly clear
wealth's not about the accumulating but the sharing.

       Darrell Petska

Making a Good Living

She works, and works, again,
not enough to pay the rent

in full each month kids are left
with barely beans and

no doctors until their illness is
too much to bear --

and the bills. Big bills.
Threatening bills, building

an abundance of worry.
She works and works again.

Hurry, hurry while deep down
her body, bone tired,

holds a pain she keeps secret.
Deep down her Spirit,

also kept a secret, steadily
breaking apart

Deep down she knows
she is making a good living

for someone else.

       Pepe Oulahan

At the Food Stamp Office

woman down the
row of chairs

I'm a worker
I'm not a sit-at-home"

Her pride has been

"I'm 49 years old
the last 2 jobs
I've had I was
laid off
that's why I'm
going to school"

"everything's' just
a little jammed up
right now"

my pride is not
I'm just depressed
& afraid
that I will be

       Dave Roskos


I kept paying the bills
from the doctor's office,
co-pays when I checked in,

co-pays when they asked
online, co-pays in the mail
until the last time I used

the kiosk at their office
and it told me I was $60
in arrears. I just said no.

I wouldn't pay and
later when I checked
it turned out they owed me.

I called their billing office and the person I spoke with
agreed. They owed me $60,

which doesn't explain why
when I opened today's mail
they'd billed me for another $60.

      Matthew J. Spireng

I Am, Whether You Like It or Not!

"I am, I am, and don't you forget it!"
I say to no one in particular,
yet I am speaking to the whole world.
But maybe most especially, to my bosses,
or to the corporation that hired me.
"I am here, I work for you, I am a human being!
And don't you forget it."
The striking Memphis sanitation workers in 1968
carried a most telling sign on their picket lines,
"I Am a Man." I am also a woman, I am trans,
I am queer, I am black, I am brown, I am yellow,
and I am red. I am Middle Eastern, I am Latin
American, I am African, I am Asian, I am Pacific
Islander. (I am also enlightened white of
European descent, of course.)
But above all, I AM. Remember that, bosses.
I am also proudly union, and remember that also,
management, corporations, corporate executives—
I AM. Lest you forget. Which I know you'd like to.
Yea, I am all these things and more. So are my brothers
and sisters. WE ARE. Don't forget that, either.

      George Fish

I Heard in the Midst of Noises

I heard in the midst of noises,
in the midst of children's cries,
How the heart is full of secrets,
And the head is full of lies;
And out of the sea of voices,
Out of the earth like an ear,
Thoughts underground, like a river;
Blood, like a migrating star.

I fear the bitter harvest,
My fellow man, my past,
Feel gods among my sorrows
And beasts upon my path;
The sun is dying in the sky,
The moon has come to dust,
And in the Milky Way the mind
Is dipped, the heart is lost.

A holocaust of children
Whose hunger goes unheard,
Martyred in the millions,
Murdered, massacred!
Like raindrops in the desert
Our tears do them no good;
The shadow of the planet
Longs through their latitude,

I know that in a shadow lies
Some violence and some bliss,
That love's half-blind, half-naked eye,
Hides teeth behind each kiss,
And passions all go up in smoke,
Grief grafted leaf to vine:
I have touched the snake that spoke
And bruised the grapes to wine!

      E.P. Fisher

As One

From here I can't
hear the bullhorns. The voices are weaker, I can hear
We have to make them stronger. When my chance comes
I try . . .
Maybe you can see
your mother has a chair
I imagine saying to Tariq      like it's my business
to sit on if she will
sometimes during the demonstration
sometimes she'll tell me to sit down
sometimes I will    "They can't feed the babies," she says.
This is draining the strength of the old.
Some grandmothers have to stay alive,
alive, I tell Abla. We both see tears
that hold below our eyes upside
down worlds we will not loose.

Our hearts beat on and beat shuddering
over lives
for lives cut off at either end
and the vast middle
for the ruined      this ruining      these ruins
                  why beat for the ruin
                  beat      the ruin
                     (heart drum)

I was here before there was this Israel
and perhaps I can be here after
I am older than the six doomed countries of '48
I have been waiting for you on this corner
for generations      and
I have stood against my own too long
to belong to them.    I did not march today
straggling with my two canes
at the end

But this day I see you all march
the elders firmly, the carriers on and the youth
the wheeled, the snugglied, the child-
in-charge-of-chants, and the run-abouts,
you all march, every one. And I see
Palestine filling the street surging
toward me, en-masse in the street in Norfolk,
every single soul marching as one.
I see your strength. Palestine
will not die. HERE
But THERE, THERE . . . the horror      I turn
my face from my face     from any
face     from any sight     from the unspeakable
this hell beyond hell on earth
            drum steady

      Mary Franke

Change Must Begin

Are Palestinian children and Innocents meant
to scream in their dreams

If they can ever sleep

Are they meant to die for the demands of humanity

Respect, equal justice, freedom and dignity

Children in West Virginia live in the poison of leaking gas wells, fracking and coal corruption

Human lives simply collateral damage of capitalism run amok

Workers spend their lives
Just trying to care for their kids and survive
feeding the greed of the corporate masters who can't be satisfied

The heart of humanity breaking
with the weight of cruelty on the rise

Earth is all out of second chances and wasted resources devoted to things nobody needs

Time to dig down to the roots of our values
and decide as workers everywhere what will work for all of us

Then to reach across the walls, learn the strength of solidarity and finally rise up

By the means at our hands to reorder the necessities of our world
Tear out the tendrils of capitalist domination
and create space for the world to heal itself from the fevered dreams of would-be rulers

The change must begin with the roots of oppression

And rise with the promise of working class power.

       Stewart Acuff

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