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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No matter how hard I scrubbed my hands
they stank from the onions I sliced.
When I ate chocolate cake
my fork was never long enough.
If I scratched my face
I had to live with that odor.
But I loved the sizzle,
the clatter of plates,
cracking eggs, flipping burgers.
I had burns on the crook of my arm,
on my thumbs, my belly,
but I loved the blue flames of the stove,
the red glow of the oven.
I loved most of the smells.
The bustle of it,
waitresses rushing in and out.
The idea of people who came in hungry
eating what I had made,
wiping their chins, drinking,
talking, at ease in their booths,
through those swinging doors.
Boom and Bust
Price of lumber going up and down
we sorta got used to, but the money
always flowed out of town.
Fat cats rolled us like bums in the alley.
Some said that more money should stay
to educate the children of sawdust eaters
but they were radicals.
The small, home grown mills became scrapyards
The real bosses did a paper dance so far from sight
a sniffer dog couldn't find them.
Some still dream of mills running three shifts a day
and no rain on the fourth of July.
Of Sons Named Emmett
i think of the one
i grew up with
my initial friend
in the wind of
neighborhood sunday morning gossip
where telephones were a luxury
television, an underdeveloped distraction
and early morning pleasantries
bonded us without surveillance
emmett, your handshakes
that taught me more
on the wooden gray slats
of your rocking-chair porch
than any fellowship hall
when we were of age
my uncle put in the word
and we were both given punch cards
factory may have brought you
a deliberate cadence and ascent
but never foreshadowed the
scuffle of what caution and will
yet you greeted all with
an unpretentious grin that made our
groggy faces focus
your joyful whistle echoed
from your forklift seat
as we moaned daily gripes and
meandered through double-shifts
ten years in
after you and your wife banked a down payment
giving each kid a room of their own
during a quarter profits skyrocketed
the bastards pink-slipped us all
just because they could
passing empathetic security guards
the guys cussed and raged
revving up to convene
at flurry's grill & barrel
only your whistle soared from behind
as we departed
your breath remaining
like a hovering ghost
as white flakes floated silently
on the parking lot cars
concealing a soiled future
Meeting the Payroll
From age 9, watching a man frantically packaging chicken
behind a grocery counter, my life's ambition was not
to work any harder than I had to, and only poetry
seemed to offer this covenant of reticence. If hour
after hour of monotonous tasks as a blueprint
machine operator, typesetter, and grading
first year comp found me at jobs where bosses
bragged about their right to be in charge because
they know how to meet payroll, and I didn't,
well, I endured it, and have never once given an hint
that I didn't believe a single word when they yapped
about how hard it was.
It's all still on the poorest amongst us
They called us essential when battling 'Rona
Saving lives, keeping the wheels of society greased
Providing groceries, transportation, emergency response,
cleaning and cleaning more,
nursing, nurturing, teaching
Paycheck says we're the least of these
But not when we are all that's between the disease
and daily needs
It takes two little checks and two shitty jobs to keep a single mom and two kids housed and out of hunger
Walmart kept going selling cheap goods to poor people
The Walton family now has two hundred, fifty billion Dollars
And they didn't lift a finger.
Sit Down! Be Quiet! Watch!
Just a schoolgirl whose strict Italian father
forbade her to continue high school -- her graduation near.
"It's time you got a job, went to work to help your mother"
Her mother, heavily pregnant, walked to the factory across town
at daybreak, returning home to greet her schoolboy son
and prepared dinner, where the husband-father-tyrant reigned,
demanding absolute silence, obedience and perfection --
not a happy meal.
Next morning, as she prepared for school,
her mother unexpectedly said, "Come with me."
When she protested she would be late for school, her mother
gave her "the look" that brooked no nonsense
and Barbara fell silent.
Barbara loved learning. Missing even a day at school saddened her,
but she loved her mother more and so,
followed her through early morning mists
to a large grim factory building that took up most of the block.
At her mother's work station, the huge conveyor belt jerked to life.
Barbara watched as her mother began putting together
Her pregnancy made some of the reaching difficult, but when
Barbara tried to help, her mother hissed
in a tone she'd never used.
"Sit down!   "Be quiet!"   "Watch!"
Barbara froze. She spent the rest of her day observing the
boredom and repetition of the assembly line job her mother
had never complained of.
Lunch - a hurried 20 minutes -- sandwiches eaten on the
assembly table, still covered with glue from the boxes --
so sad, so depressing, 'til finally -- time to go home -- relief!
On their walk home, her mother spoke passionately:
"Never give up your education!" she told her daughter.
(later, first in the family to graduate college.)
"Never stop learning!"
Barbara got an education that day.
Her mother's lesson "took" in more ways than one.
she moved her mother and younger brother
to a safe, happy home.
far from the reaches of dominion, cruelty and injustice,
where conversation and laughter were encouraged,
at the dinner table.
I have spent
a lot of time with crawlers --
Speedy little things!
Mamas got to get down
and grab the right part
to catch one
But as I used to say
to the pupils who
were allergic to variables
and who were utterly resistant
to learning the steps to solve for X
so that when confronted with
the additional Y they could cope -- an 18 year old on a tricycle
may not be up to the pedaling
They used to throw things then, chalk spitballs
they all wanted cars.
Am I willing to crawl?
I am very good at crawling
I have heard it develops the brain
-- bilateral limb movement checkin' in --
better than marching!
does not have
to be perfect
All she has to be
and if not first
there, and if not there, getting
there -- believe me
I would walk away
and start my own
are there rudiments
Do I have an axe?
The Idea of Normal
Beyond the beach and its swimmers
a sailboat tacks back and forth,
its white sails looking brand new.
Beyond this boat a dark lake
churns north hugging the Michigan side.
An Asian family picnics on the grass
in the shade of an oak windbreak.
Even the plague cannot prevent
families from seeking fun as if all
were normal. Tonight, riots will consume
Portland and Seattle; federal agents
will club protesters to the ground.
And the virus spreads relentlessly
among the young and young-at-heart.
Somehow the idea of normal
became our new theology.
Today, the bronze gods of Jesus,
Abraham, Moses, Muhammad
have fallen, fallen as the men
they actually were, fallen
as a faith no longer permissible.
This religion confers a mad
exhilaration, a passionate release
like a widow in the embrace
of a lover after years of solitude.
Once before there was a new normal:
the nineteen-fifties when America
was great for the first and last time.
Normal has no room for Buddha, Confucius,
or the gods and goddesses of the Hindus.
Nor Plato. Nor Marx and Nietzsche.
This is religion free of divinity.
And still the white sailboat
tacks up and down Canatara Beach
on a summer Sunday without bells.
If we could talk politics you would
listen and I would listen and maybe
sometimes we would see the other side
and maybe even agree after one or the other
changed his mind, but, of course, you're
not going to listen to anything I say
and I know you're wrong in your beliefs --
I mean dead wrong -- so what the hell
is the sense of you and I talking at all?
Matthew J. Spireng
Still breathing each others
viral variant-breeding breaths and only
30% taking free vaccines after three months
and a locked down year in my own blue city
Oh Moronika, now unleashing its vengeance --
our most popular cultural characteristic,
on those hesitant to return
to degrading low wage slave jobs
in petri dish workplaces
Oh Moronika --
led by the arrogant thieving rich,
an aggressive rentier empire
dumbed-down for decades and
proudly claiming its return as leader
to a hesitant world choking on imposed debt, on
plastic, on radioactive shrapnel and resurgent nationalisms
Oh, dear Moronika,
still looking for enemies   our greatest foes;
stubborn ignorance, myopic delusions of wealth, militarism and
ingrained hatreds   that
three-headed beast reeling on its stolen hoard,
insatiable for more and more and more
a world-eating virulence out of control
Moronika must die if humanity
is to survive
Abolish the Pentagon!
Abolish Wall Street!
Abolish the Police!
Abolish the prison industry!
Abolish phony corporate disinformation media!
Abolish poverty and private wealth!
Abolish ICE and the CIA!
Abolish the Electoral College!
Abolish the Senate!
Abolish corporate parties!
Abolish real estate!
Together, we can
begin to build a new society
disconnected from this corrupt monstrosity
from sea to toxic, plastic-filled sea --
a working class democracy
of equality, respect, sustenance and
within our actual means
worthy of the name
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