Winter 2020-2021

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
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Poetry Samples from the Latest Issue

Factory Behind the Chain Link Fence

I stacked boxes
on a mechanized line.
I saw them in my dreams,
boxes falling, building
up, never ending,
the break not coming, the horn
silent, the break room not for me,
for others, sure, but not
for me. And I woke each day
and got ready to punch the clock
to stack the boxes
on wooden pallets.
The full pallets were taken
to the warehouse by another.
Taken, taken, taken by the fork lift driver.
A senior man in a moving seat.
The boxes moved but I didn't.
I stayed on that line
and I stacked boxes.
I stacked boxes even in my dreams.

       Kirk Van Dyke

No Key to the Housing Agency

I was the first person in the parking lot every day
I parked by the garbage dumpster, the space farthest away
I wanted to quit many times, but had to stay

I was hired as a consumer
They called me a "peer"
I had to take medication to be mentally stable
t was not clear to them that I was very able
They decided to always be careful

Ellen always arrived after me
I followed her in; they gave me no key,
She had a desk, an office and a computer
She kept quiet, looking straight ahead
I felt I wasn't so bad -- that she had been misled

I took out trash, painted apartments and cleaned
I didn't understand why my co-workers were so mean
I always ate my lunch alone
It wasn't as if it went unseen

It was different than before
I couldn't believe the job was meant to help me
I could barely take it anymore

Ellen began to close the door behind her
Like she wished I didn't exist
It was a hard reminder
That I would just have to persist
Eventually, she had a baby and quit
Others quit too, as I held my ground
Wishing a better job could be found

      Steven T. Pryce

The Cooler

I'm in the cooler.
Not like Lebeau on Hogan's Heroes
where escape to town through
a hollowed out stump is easy,
no frauleins to drink schnapps with.
No, this is the cooler, 38 degrees,
hundreds of gallons of milk, juice, eggs,
and all those other perishable dairy items,
my perishable spirit keeping safely chilled.
I dress for winter in summer
lift a ton of milk alone each day
busiest store in the chain.
While the customers scrutinize the shelves
in search, always, of that best date
my calendar turns.
Eight more months . . .
Five more months . . .
Nine more weeks to retirement.

       Ben Onachila


I learn to smile and twang
when I ask for drink orders,
my ponytail high and curled.
Really, I'm more of a hermit witch
than a sweet southern hostess.
But the '50s diner at the Arboretum
spins me into a pink poodle skirt
and button-busting blouse.
I'm almost tempted to buy
saddle shoes and cat-eye glasses.

The line cooks wait to watch me
cross over the line to the kitchen,
my grin souring to a scowl.
Some of the boys know
what a faker I am.

I collect dollar bills and quarters
in a Paris coin purse,
dab the ketchup stains
above my palm-sized breast
The Charlotte crowd piles
into the crusted chrome car booth,
and I squeeze extra chocolate
into their kid's milk.

I hate everyone.
They call me, "Cute as a button
and sweet as can be."

      Becky Nicole James

The Women in the Little Rooms
like letters in letter boxes
keys in an old hotel

Made him do it      he
would not have gone
to those places had they not
been there       think, kill the pusher
without the dope      think self-defense
the skittle sucking sidewalk skipping child
inspired fear in the man
with the gun waiting in the shadow
   the women in the little rooms
   the women kneeling at the feet --
I have been in those rooms
The touched bodies appropriately in --
(according to some) appropriately, weigh
the touching of bodies against the
shooting of bodies
The women charged, charged by the killer
of temptation -- sirens
are making you sick, the man was told
giving you flu, came to kill you
but there's no vaccine for the man
with the gun so big
it would not fit in his pants
A thing men do. And need to stop

The women in the little rooms
who would judge these not equal
to being exterminatable --
I have been a woman in these rooms
and whatever the cruel, the crazed
the wasters kill for -- even rocket scientists work
with their flesh -- not to be obliterated
            a common treasure

      Mary Franke

2020 Vision: Diary of a Plague

This spring disease afflicts the urban coast.
I stay indoors and reckon hour by hour
the online news for ill compatriots.
Tradesman, too, stay home (will they return?)
and loners die alone in narrow beds.
The rich escape, although at great expense,
but their estates seem made for plagues like this,
for sieges tracked in color-coded maps,
for stats in charts of jagged rising spikes
that speak of tolls, but not of sweats, of coughs
and lack of breath that send the medics out,
or not, when all the beds are full. This new
masked ball is grand, the invites come by air,
invisibility's at home in us,
they multiply in droplets in the breeze
and breed in tiny spots inside the cell,
our breath itself a portal of disaster.

Now it is July, the plague has eased,
in my poor rural county, numbers fall.
Debate heats up -- vaccines and education,
elections, business closings, earnings lost.
I make myself go out, pass others on
the street and feel distrust rise in my throat
of those unmasked . . . Eight months pass by.
It's winter now; mutating viruses
surge here and everywhere. Quilt-cozied
I stay at home, indoors, and like the fishes
in my aquarium that hide in the rushes,
I wait, a captive of the mounting dead,
as day by day, the heartland states succumb
Texas, then Dakota in the lead,
followed by Nebraska, Wyoming.
Who is next? Too soon my time will come.
Let the mourning bell of passing ring.

      Zara Raab

A Fly in Amber

I am a fly in amber
slowed to paralysis
I watch the world
go by
at a distance
   warped like the view
from these old cylinder glass windows

Remembering the sudden slowing,
the resinous suffocation of it
bringing life to
        a stand-still
I flew free      once
a dynamic life --
engaging with friends, with
the world -- now
a lonely spectator
I'm stuck
a cocoon solid
as stone, a

       Al Markowitz

The Curiosities of Decline

Stillness through rainy fog --
car's creep through muddy pools,
sidewalks with oak leaves cloak.
Light held, luminous grieving.
This dying is no surprise.
Helicopter's flyover burr
flattens through its sweep.
Ferals slink the pavement's driest line,
shadows skew under
streetlamp, dripping bough.
Cooping in a stairwell,
a panhandler's broken shoes
soak in standing water.
Incense of pot smoke, cooling charcoal
disorders the slow-stirring breeze.
In other days, it was easy
to speak of the dead.
Bright day to bitter afternoon,
never trust the suicide's mythology.

       R.T. Castleberry

Q-Anon Told Me So

i can't believe it,
all those wasted years i was happily agnostic,
attempting to hone my critical thinking skills,
until a lunatic fringe of evangelicals
shook me awake, put me on the holy path
& now that the scales have fallen from my eyes
i can assure you without a shadow of doubt,
the deep state exists & it is Satan,
hell-bent on the subversion
of our conservative values
& the ruin of our exceptional nation.

(intelligence & integrity
get thee behind me)

My brief autopsy of the deep state's first victims
Transparency / forever staggering about
lost in a hall of smoke & mirrors.
Accountability / trussed & tossed,
gator-bait bobbing in the swamp.
Truth / a stake through the heart,
& a clove of garlic
shoved in its mouth for good measure.

(fact-check the eradication of vampires,
& pesky topical poets)

i confess, the perfidy only gets worse,
& it saddens my heart when sinners
can't see the warning signs,
or the progressive ghouls smirking
behind every face mask.
The child sex-rings fronted by pizza parlors
catering to the wealthiest degenerates.

(how quickly i swore off anchovies and olives)

Our noble Confederate statues have bitten the dust
& those uppity nigras are now way out of hand.

(may the good lord
protect our 2nd Amendment & militarized police
the corrective to the 13th, 14th & 15th mistakes)

We're whiplashed between the scamdemic
& the ongoing climate change hoax.

(Kung flu? one more bedside companion
come to visit the old folks,
but lacking any sense of seasonal propriety)

(retroactively, we know
who poked a hole in the ozone,
& knocked the bottom out of the pet rock market)

science & atheism get behind me!

& i ask you, what happens to our free & fair elections
when our ballots are compromised by postage stamps?

(there goes democracy, spurring its invisible pink unicorn
into the teeth of a perfect shitstorm)
The deep state's pettiest transgression --
reducing the water pressure
to our anointed leader's gold-plated showerhead

(the trickle of a baptism --
& thieves have caged the white doves
descending from heaven)

Won't you join my knees on the floorboards?
From our lips to God's ear, may he grant strength,
courage, armored halos & girded loins
to our champions,
the incompetent orange offspring of Pinochio
& his plastic sidekick, the white homophobic,
Christian neo-nationalist from Indiana
2 Corinthians
with the bronze balls of the Walls St. bull,

(I'm guaranteed a slice of the prosperity gospel pie!)
because our flesh and mental faculties are weak,
& the liberal spin-doctors have ground us down,
& we're surrounded by socialists,
soul-sucking Jews & cannibal pedophiles . . .

(& damnable environmentalists, i might add)

-- it's time to hedge our bets . . .

. . . let's also implore Jesus
to swap his donkey
for an elephant
& summon a host
of right-to-work garden gnomes
who've beaten their shovels
into crosses & armalite rifles,
black flag to the fore,
because the Apocalypse is upon us.

(won't ours be a glorious & bloody vindication?)

This we pray,
in the name
of the hook,
the line
& the sinker


To Insure Domestic Tranquility

Even children of fascists cry
when hungry at bed time.
When despair overwhelms light
Racists commit suicide.
Any of us might fight
when we've lost the means
to provide for our families.
Wanna end white supremacy?
End all our poverty.
There can be no domestic tranquility
in the face of such human needs.

      Stewart Acuff

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