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
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The fog had hung like steel
above the half-built storage tank
above the Platte. All morning the pusher
had ordered work to go on, the boilermakers
stitching sheet to twelve-foot sheet
of half-inch steel around the ring
high above refinery sand. Suddenly a cry
went out, "She's leaning in!" A moment
later, scream of seams releasing,
steel and scaffolds, two men,
boxes full of welding rod fell sixty feet.
The boom of heavy metal hitting metal
echoed inside the giant can. A few
who'd clung to outside scaffolds slid
down ladders, entered through a manhole,
saw the blood and broken bones.
The pusher who had ordered work to go on
despite the fog, stood silent for a moment
then, as was his wont, said, stating
the obvious, "Fellas, I'm afraid they're gonners."
No one shouldered any blame.
After three days off, the work began again.
i'm busy at my case on the floor
when the supervisor approaches
"i need you to work sunday"
a firmness in her voice
as the new guy
i knew it would be coming
the old intimidation play
"no can do, sue, i've got plans"
"what do you mean, i need you to work"
"sorry, when i was hired i was assured
i'd have sundays off"
her heels click across the floor to
the manager's office
i keep working
he storms out barking my name
i remain diligent and calm
while he puts on his mini-napoleon show
for the rest of the gang
"what's this i hear you won't work sunday?"
and continues before i can answer
"you work when you're told to work, got it?"
poking his finger into my chest
as exclamation points
to every other word of his tirade
without speaking a word
my eyes bore directly into his pupils
then look down at my chest and
back into his eyes
the little worm turns into a ghost
but returns two minutes later
after realizing his overreaching
ploy has failed
(not to mention the fact that
he'd be choking on my union card
"i worked it out
so you're off the hook sunday" he says
acting like he did me a favor.
Shoving Barges on the Minnesota River
Getting off watch for crew change at 1800 hours this evening,
clean up, head to the galley
of the LINDHOLM to eat with Captain Emmett
The crew all poor white folk from the Cumberland Gap,
Harlan Kentucky and Southern Indiana, descendants of Daniel
Boone, white slaves and River Rats
. . . the militia was sent in to Harlan to keep miners working.
Everybody packed a gun when I was down there . . .
This is what Big Emmet is tellin'. The strike was on so long there was nothing to eat but onion.
You read a lot? Tell me about onion. They're good for you ain't they?
(The whole world ought to organize into One Big Onion.)
The cook, little Sonya Stonecipher, sits by Emmet's shoulder
sorta like a little bird under Emmet's wing.
They run the towboat like they might make some money
and move into a real house instead of that trailer in Harlan
where Sonya lives alongside Emmet's backhoe
and seven broke-down trucks
Sonya serves up white bread that was stale three days ago
in tomato sauce.
I grew up eating that same shit my mother cooked when we lived
in a trailer in the woods. And I hate white biscuits and
white gravy but I eat it to remember why I'm so pissed off.
We've been eating poverty so long we don't know
there's other meat beside hot dog, and chicken once in a while,
other beans beside navy. We think we're ahead because
we don't eat chitlins and yellow mush. But I like chitlins better,
and grits in the morning with pepper and a slab of margarine.
East Palestine, Ohio
Just another sacrifice zone
To the gods of capitalist greed
Small town lost in corporate dreams
Free market nightmares of suffering
Norfolk Southern freights run rumbling
Only 50 yards from my crib between town and country
West Virginia land of suffering and sacrifice
Coal mines exploding and gas blowing pipelines
What are we to do so close to the rails carrying chemical death?
We worship the masters of materialism much more
Than we ever worshipped anyone we ever called lord.
For Better Wages and a Four-day Week
on a tv too small
though it lights a room
as a lighthouse casts
i walk night streets
to see that flickering glow
of squinting homes
and windows too large to be called
pictures in which
landscapes fade out.
is scared and moronic as a bright
snore falling off the couch.
i see them eating
with a public service threat.
but they just lower the volume,
shovel with smaller forks,
still not hearing heartbeats
blown apart and, as their
blood is thinned to unclotting,
with muttered intelligence
like downed wires
dancing in water
with no one aware
of the electricity
The materials are still there, and
the question remains what you
or anyone else is going to do with them.
Mason, architect, bricklayer,
your title and skill set are not
the point, It is your vision
of the future that matters,
letting go of what you hold dear.
Saint-Just made the point
during the French Revolution:
you can build a palace or
a tomb from the same stones.
So, what if we turned a jail
into a classroom, instead
of a school into a jail?
Colin Fergusen shooting fish in a barrel.
Cordite served for lunch at Columbine High School.
No Hollywood blood for the 7 working at Wendy's
in Flushing, New York - did they want fear on the side with that?
When we're all in the line of fire,
sticks & stones don't appear to be so bad.
Bernard Goetz pulled the trigger first,
left the questioning of survivors to others.
the National Guard used live ammunition
to teach a few unwilling students at Kent State
the meaning of law & order,
& who will keep paranoid, self-righteous militias
from turning their carbines on you, my friends?
Who would pin medals on Indianapolis's police force
after they hosted a sale of confiscated weapons
to the general public?
The funds raised were used to equip themselves with Kevlar,
What's wrong with this picture?
You're compromised, citizen, un-served & unprotected.
On the planet of the apes,
the Statue of Liberty should have washed up in Kansas,
a disappointment to evolutionists,
a nightmare for Constitutional lawyers.
A mere grunt in the army, who can fault that gorilla's shaky aim
from horseback? The bullet nicked Charlton Heston's larynx,
but he regained speech in time for that notorious line, "Get your goddam filthy paws off of me!"
or Moses just down from the mountain,
brandishing the 11th Commandment,
a flintlock circa 1776 -- all well & fine,
but the hostilities have never stopped.
(keep your goddam regulations off of me!)
Which was implied when he bellowed,
"They won't get my gun until they pry it
from my cold, dead hand!"
How easily poetic justice could happen.
Goodbye Robert & JFK.
Now we know how many holes it takes to deport John Lennon.
Armenia & Azerbaijan -- did the god with the largest caliber win?
Charlton wasn't paying attention when Carl Sandburg explained " . . . the shovel is the brother to the gun . . "
When breath no longer brushes past your lips
your character will change.
Most folks will think it's improved.
People will speak admiringly of you
once you no longer pay attention.
You'll be more patient, calmer.
When your limbs are cold,
you will not mind the heavy make up on your face.
You will not feel embarrassment.
Somehow the dignity you lost when you were living
will come back to you.
If they pierce your skin with metal, you won't flinch.
Nothing they do will make you cry out.
The dead are brave.
Once your blood settles you won't drink too much.
You won't run around.
You'll never lie again.
You won't be cruel or reckless.
You'll make no more mistakes.
Still, brave as they are and patient, calm and wise,
I don't think the dead are moved easily to feel compassion.
Whatever they feel, their arms aren't strong.
Their legs aren't swift. Their fingers not nimble.
enough to thread a needle.
The work of keeping this world from falling apart,
the job of stitching back together what needs mending
-- which my Aunt Dot did so well
every day and night shift of her life --
belongs to those of us who fill our lungs with air.
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