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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It's too early on a Tuesday
morning. The agency's having
budget problems, they're cutting
back on juice and fruit and the only
things on the table are coffee and tea,
bagels cut in half. The director
of our useless human resources
department is introducing the new
director of training, He's wearing
a sports jacket, a brightly striped
wide tie. His smile is too big,
he's talking too fast and he moves
around the room like Jerry Springer
on cocaine. Jason comes from New
Hampshire and he's of course
much too young to know anything
about anything that matters.
I'm trying to pretend I'm interested
in what he's saying about seeing
the field and our consumers -- yeah
that's what we call them now --
in a whole new way. He wants
to give all group home managers
a context and races through a reader's
digest version of the way society
has viewed them throughout history;
from being expelled in the dark
ages to benevolence and Christian
pity, to guinea pigs for vaccines,
Geraldo Rivera and Willowbrook
where half of my guys spent years
all the way to today with community
inclusion and fantasies of normalcy.
He names causes, lists diagnoses,
asks for typical characteristics.
I know all this and none of it
has helped me or the six men
in my group home. Lee still never
wants to spend time with anyone,
Larry wears the same sweatshirt
every day and James still traces
endless circles. No matter how or why
they’re here, whether I call them
patients, clients, or shake my head
when they do another nutty thing
and the thought, ‘crazy ass retard’
flashes through my brain, I know
they’re a lot like me and it’s my job
to help make their world happier,
a bit bigger, day after day and I wish
this guy would shut up so I can grab
a bite to eat and go do my job.
The Story of a Trucker
Fast and empty lives;
the freeway crowded,
causeways to the high bridge
aiming at the sky.
All day the vulture hangs,
on wings outspread,
holly trees to thirty feet along the road.
Clayton manufactured homes
crowd round a man-made lake
like cows around a tank.
Other long distance drivers
sleeping in their over-cabs beside the road.
Log trucks, motels, deer
slung on the roofs of pick-ups.
Wrong turns on the highway,
wrong turns in the hotel hall,
too much to drink in the cantina,
highway barely seen, it snakes ahead.
Now it's a bucking horse that
wants to throw me in a ditch.
Early morning fog above the Ohio valley,
bare trees along the highway cuts.
West Virginia in my rearview mirror.
Wabash, White, Ohio, Mississippi
heading south as I am heading north.
We Pulled a Wildcat Strike
The older guys said they were pretty sure that the USWA
started in the Coke Ovens at Bethlehem/Lackawanna.
Couldn't prove it, but what better place to forge
a labor movement in the steel industry?
Of the local steelworker unions, #2601 was the strongest,
having the entire plant by the short hairs. After all,
no energy, no steel.
And the work was so steady, the senior guys said,
they worked right through the Great Depression.
We labored under a no-strike contract
signed by the International Steelworkers Union.
For this, the company would minimize layoffs,
pay us a higher percentage of the profits,
give us more vacation time, plus bonus pay for holding up our side
no scab labor, no costly strikes.
When the Coke Ovens reneged on our production incentives
our local union leaders said they weren't being agreeable.
The International was no help.
So, the local union leaders said, we walk out for one shift,
a three-ball move.
And out we went, to the Union hall,
then to Curly's gin mill across the street.
The entire plant panicked. Never saw it coming.
Ovens had to be pushed on schedule,
lest they collapse. The furnaces needed
an uninterrupted stream of energy.
So the plant sent foremen to the Ovens
to work the lids and run the machines.
Do the shitwork normally relegated to people of color.
The International disavowed us.
The company slapped each of us with one day off without pay.
But in the end, we were heard.
We got every penny they'd agreed to pay us.
That was the first time I completely understood
the power and importance of union.
Open the Books!
What is that you say?
That you, who built your empire
off the sweat of our labor,
cannot afford to keep us on
at union wages?
That even our shrinking benefits
will crush you?
Your delicate little empire
We, who rescued you
with givebacks, are now
of our unemployment?
The workers, who make
the wheels go round, who do
the heavy lifting
and the unfailing work, think
we have a solution.
You know what we make,
slaving on the assembly line.
We want to know what you make,
if you are as broke and gasping
and desperate as you say.
Always you are the one
who plunks the numbers down
on the table.
We thunder and rage before
bowing down before them
in the dark.
Now it is time
for the workers
Rumors fly you did
an eight figure year last year.
Open the books!
Open the books!
Open the books!
Open the books!
To be a pauper in the days of greed and death and
capitalism run amok
Is to be among the brothers and sisters struggling while our world fights extinction
To be a pauper is to wear a badge on a ripped shirt that
I ain't making bank on your pain
I ain't looking to get over on you or fill my bank account with the hurt of your hunger pangs
We are poor but powerful when we take up our burdens with one another to make change
To organize together is to worship the good and love in all of us
Find the power in each other
To be a pauper today is to become a holy prophet of the emptiness of empire
Fight for freedom and life without chains.
lying and not
hammers at me
a hurricane of death of
murder and mayhem
monsters of history
of terror, theft and abuse
the frustrations of apartheid
tearing at my heart
my consciousness bruised and battered
I can't look
I can't bear to look
I can't look
away from it
Feeling helpless, I
write editorial letters
all clad in pseudo-patriotic
supporting war, a genocide
against a people oppressed
with our country's support
I stand on the street
with Palestinians wear
a button against the occupation
knowing silence, any silence
is complicity and
maybe seeking the catharsis
of a fight -- a fist fight
the vortex of rage, of violence tugging at me
to absolve myself of guilt? Of
we all share
for terrible crimes being committed
in your name our name --
and what good
does any of it do?
People being torn to bits
buried under rubble
the blood flowing like
the mythic great flood
the war -- the wars
growing like a cancer
that will engulf us all.
Does it Matter? The Demonstrations?
DOES IT HELP?
DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Does it matter what you people do?
Is there a difference between
the number of women
who did not die
from illegal abortion because
we marched &
broke the old law and
made sense --
as these times do not?
Surely I would have died most surely
from that infected I.U.D.
pregnancy legal abortion not easy.
One illegal survival was my
Does it matter what we do, did, for the vote,
civil rights, Gay rights, worker's rights, children's rights,
disability rights, immigration rights . . . ?
Sometimes for a time
Does it matter -- forever?
Does it matter -- a lot?
Does it matter -- cosmically?
It matters certainly
when people do not stand up stand out wear out
their lives --
win their lives
for what is right
I am old and because
I cannot do what I did,
that does not mean doing it
Does not mean new means are not
the right means . . .
or whatever justice we win we cannot lose
It makes perfect sense to say
our earth may go out of history at any minute
and that scoundrels dictate and subjugate.
I know I'm too weak to face
the facts but
I'm also stupidly determined
I've got to remember to throw these questions
back to sender like a
shit-covered basketball at a dinner party
Can't Solve A Damn Thing
Worlds collide with false beliefs
Fields of wonder, ignored
Why does humanity ignore empathy?
Every corner has strength
If you ate today, be grateful; many did not
I need to write this down
I have no idea why
My friend tells me to stop with the poetry
Write a novel, a memoir
But I'm not famous, and the world
Has enough novels and memoirs
We must be better
Live well, help others live well
Listen to understand
I'll show this poem to my friend
If it can even be called a poem Poems don't solve anything
Poems can't feed the hungry
Poems can't cure cancer
Or forgive medical debt
Poems can't stop bullets
Every ism that hurts others
Poems can't solve a damn thing
But readers can
And we must..
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