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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Papa died at the Thompson
Steel Works, blast mill
smelting out the bone from his
skin. Of slave-stock, the man
had northward dreams of work,
of fortunes made and bellies
full, of eased ends for his issue.
but the girl does not think of
Papa's dreams. She thinks of work,
of the thin dross that must be skimmed
away from the muck, diving dark
girl-hands into dank waters
with pruned skin gripping fetid
sponge. Sinking pots and pans into
shallow funk, drop-dull and slick,
her small body bends like hot metal.
But as she drags the gray depths
through lovely soap foam halos,
teasing out the carrion from its
slag, she fingers sinews
as they rise from the loam. Skin
hot and raw, belly gnawed, she
plucks out the offal of her portion.
Kristen L. Pantle
I was the trainer
On an assembly line for a year
They couldn't fire me
That was clear
Maybe I was too quiet
Maybe I didn't learn enough
Maybe I wasn't tough
But, I took the pay raise
And I felt out of place
I wasn't lazy
They could have found out
That I was "crazy"
when our production numbers were down
All the trainers on our shift
Had to re-apply for their positions
I was the only one left
Without an extension
I was sent back to the line
I wanted to tear up
my college degree
Was that the reason
They hated me?
Last in Line, First to Go
In high school his senior year.
His second senior year after
He was reported for not shaving his beard.
Working his way up from welder to draftsman –
Classes at Eastern at nights
While raising the family, working graveyard,
Not shaving his beard,
My mom picking him up in our bright yellow
Volkswagen Hunchback with the St. Bernard
Riding shotgun and me in blue vinyl car seat in the rear.
Fifteen years on the job. 1981.
And let go in the wave of Michigan recession –
Slow down. Shut down. Jobless town. Jobless state.
The state of the union.
Ten year old me is told, understands,
Low man in seniority goes. Union contract.
Bottom foot is cut off.
32 years. 29 years. 21 years. And ... 15 years.
No work until California calling a few years later.
And he takes what he can, works whatever he can.
Cal-OSHA warden. Make yourself useful.
Safety chief. Make yourself indispensable.
Check the eye shower weekly.
And almost 20 years later –
You weren't the low man in seniority,
Or if you were, it doesn't matter.
Because you were the union rep,
And no one likes the union rep –
No one reps for the rep –
Especially when it comes to food on the table in 1981
32 years. 29 years. 21 years. And ... 15 years.
And maybe so you were involved
In some pro-union anti-management fires too.
Union squabbles on the Michigan green in the 60s.
Maybe the memories are long,
Longer than any service.
My dad apprenticed as a welder.
He lived white hot.
Until you get multiple myeloma diagnosis
At 50, and are dead before 56.
Come to Jesus
Scrum of husks lifted into the skies,
all of the dust that was once alive after
those who could swept in and took all
they could . . . Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Huns,
Hedge Fund managers, Big Box stores.
Those weren't archangels in black shirts
in the stained streetlight outside the rally,
silent as the redacted stars. Nothing's
not for sale -- a northern European country
with an ice reserve? Carbon trading?
Who's calling out the billionaires and their
stooges for running us out of water and air --
for the typhoons of particulate, for the viral
upsurge, and every blindfolded fact ignored?
Every stick and stone infused with fossil fuel
and choking up on the shore with an assortment
of polystyrenes, while autocrats, CEOs,
and political appointees walk away,
hands over their hearts, heading for their
cabanas and haciendas in Miami Beach,
swearing the sky was never bluer, weather.
never better. What are you going to do
with the dulled phosphors, with hope sinking
on the horizon, when you can still see that far?
My 9/11s 'The' 9/11 and it immediate aftermath>
Fifteen minutes before heading to the first bargaining session
of what would ultimately turn into failed negotiations
and a strike involving 400 employees
I was in the breakfast nook of a Midwestern hotel
watching the second plane fly into the South Tower.
In real time it was almost hypnotic, more eerily impressive
than the embodiment of Dread it would become.
But I had more immediate worries
than what was happening half a country away.
The employer was trying to provoke racial violence.
Picket line misconduct led to arrests.
There were ongoing efforts to raise bail and trials to prepare for.
Yours truly and others were soon facing RICO charges
and a divided town began dying even faster than it had been.
All more pressing concerns.
than a check that had been in the mail
since at least 9/11/73.
The 20th Anniversary
I'd been on the road for three weeks and six days
sinking into wild cityscapes and astounding landscapes,
floating across the continent and losing track of time.
9/11/21 found me in Butte, Montana
walking up to the Granite Mountain/Spectacular Mine Memorial,
which effectively honors not just the 168 miners who died
in the Spectacular Mine Disaster
but all the miners who died working
under "The Richest Hill on Earth."
All 2,500 of them, drawn there from at least 16 countries
by the universal dream of providing a better life for your family,
while others got rich through their labor and sacrifice.
If you can take it, an audio feature
allows you to listen to readings of
the final letters trapped and dying miners
wrote to their families as hope was lost
and Death slithered through the shafts
with infinite patience, penetrating the bulkheads
they'd made to keep toxic fumes away.
Were those tears in the corners of Brother A's eyes?
Maybe. But there's no maybe about this:
Once again I had more important thing to do
than add to the ludicrously faux patriotism
and meaningless generalized 'sympathy'
that had raised its embarrassing head again.
Vietnamese girl ran naked down
a road in a halo of flames
the first and last confession
to American war guilt
televised and disappeared
Iraq, all we saw were crosshairs
a white dome in the green-lit night
and dust distant enough to be other galaxies
Peace people went sandals on the ground
and told us numbers
with suffering flesh on them --
But it was as if Vietnam
had used up all the pictures
and they would not come back
All saw the stuttering tanks roll into Kiev
we heard the reasons facts marketing
NATO this nazis that . . . world's end
Bodies and buildings break as I write
This we can watch and watch and suffer
watching suffering Because it is not OUR war
Because now we can Because it is not OUR war?
We will spend years
explaining defeat, not
studying why we were
there to begin with.
We will speak of lessons
to be learned rather than
confront why we still
do not know how to learn.
The right answers always
seem to elude us because
we have not yet mastered
the art and the practice
of asking the right questions.
So, we will take the architects
of tragedy and make them our
professors, panelists and provosts,
ordained to teach us policy and history.
Any questions please?
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