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 $15.00 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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The horn sounds and the line freezes
and your first five free seconds
are wasted listening to its blare
as your internal clock instinctively starts
to count down the five minutes
until it sounds again
and you want to race to the bathroom
because one of the line relief workers
called in sick this morning
and your foreman, rather than request
a floater from another line,
opted to spread the extra work
between the two remaining relievers
which means a few unlucky stiffs
had to go without early relief today
and you are one of those unlucky stiffs
and you want to race to the bathroom
because you've been holding
two cups of coffee since before dawn
which today occurred twenty minutes after
your shift started at 6 AM and went unobserved
in the middle of this cavernous factory,
and you want to run to the phone
to call your girlfriend and apologize
for not calling last night as planned
because you woke up in a chair
with the TV blaring at 11:30
and that was just too late to call,
and you want to run to a vending machine
for a Coke to keep yourself alert
but there are six motors backed up
at your work station which means
you are a full minute behind the rest of the line
(that's right, the line puts out 360 motors an hour
every hour, every workday, two shifts
and that's just line 3, of eight)
so rather than risk a line shut down later
in the morning because there is only room
for nine motors between stations,
you pick up gaskets and screws and mount
the six carburetors sitting loosely atop the motors
so that you can pass them through when the line starts
and catch up again, but that takes two minutes
because you have to go to the motors instead
of them coming to you, and now
there is only about two and a half minutes left
on your internal clock and the Coke
will have to wait until lunch
and the girlfriend loses again
because the bathroom is 30 seconds each way
plus the pissing time
and that coffee is just
about to burst your bladder.
Automobile Mirror Assembly Line
All we want is time to live --
do those things we haven't enough
off hours for -- catch
a fish, enjoy family, paint
a picture, breed a different flower.
And all we have to buy time with
are lives whose worth is measured by minimum wage.
Every right-hand mirror I place
in the press is imprinted, "CAUTION: OBJECTS . . .
ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR." Looking
in my own rearview, I see that's true --
my past is tailgating me.
But windshields should have a warning too:
OBJECTIVES ARE FURTHER AWAY
THAN YOU HAVE GAS TO GO..
Carol V. James
Raising the Floor
When you've been on your feet
All day --
Something just about anyone
Can relate to,
Not sitting in a street
Waiting for the police
We all need to eat.
We all need to work.
And food tastes better
When you know you earned it.
They aren't taking orders
The smiles are genuine,
And so is the desire to serve.
Supersize my heart,
And a chair,
Just a chair,
So I can sit down
At the end of the day.
you can raise
Above the pain
That pools down there.
Of a life's work.
Smaller than men,
I'm sent into the tiny spaces
of attics and underneaths,
underpinnings, holes in walls.
I crawl through the skeletons of homes
brought down by flames. Inside walls,
above ceilings, under floors:
This is where fire hides like a crawling infant.
Skeptical, I nonetheless wonder why
Bibles and pornography never burn.
We find them, untouched, at bedsides
and under coffee tables, even as
the family dog is curled like a blackened
apostrophe around such things. I am
superstitious these days seeing the family
photos dark and disfigured behind melted frames
while HobbyLobby clearance sale
"Family" sign hangs defiantly, a sooty survivor.
But it's always the albums they ask for, "Did you see --"
"Can you check this room for --"
A recipe. A checkbook. A marriage license. My diary.
In the attics sometimes ornaments. Sometimes toys.
In the basements the great-grandfather's tools. All their
important things, tucked into hiding. I pull a firehose
through a museum of their lives, an exhausted curator.
I see what was important to them. I see the pyramid of
priorities on the desk. Even the flames, cruel as they are,
will spare the things you really need. Look for me to emerge
like an archeologist from your cave of ashes, carrying things
you forgot about years ago.
Alana Merritt Mahaffey
From One Sardine to Another
Balloons shaped like fish and crabs
float in shiny clusters behind the presenter with his
telling us about our new appraisal system,
the system they will use to put us on "growth plans" and fire us.
It's all laid out in such a benevolent light, and so earnestly,
one might believe in all the sunshine and beach line painted
by the softly bobbling balloons and complimentary orange juice
but they let go nineteen of my colleagues last year,
Some are still unemployed.
Times are hard, and though my reviews were good,
I could fall from favor too and find myself in the fat side of the knife
trimmed for the scrap heap.
I work too many hours for a day at the beach
and I cannot afford pretty balloons like those
or even fish to eat very often
that isn't canned.
And none of us
can afford to be
By the time spring rolls around
and the bank account as bottomed
out, and the desperation, like
mold has saturated the wallboard of
my daughter's smile, my spouse's
lips, and the men walking the street
or hid at home in front of the tube
become vacant eyed: when all plans
have been swallowed like the banks
of the river after the flashing
rains and prayers quiet and patient
have worn the ears off the moon
and we are left floating in a sea
that is endless and treading water
our strength over the days diminishes
and there is a nipping at our feet
as we try to send our children
swimming off smiling saying it's
O.K., but it is? That is the question
posed by the remnants of dignity
the first work of the year allows
working men numbed to death to comprehend.
Michael S. Morris
The takers live in
home footages squared and cubed
in gated communities
so they can easily "entertain"
to better plot together
against that half of the population
they choose to consider worthless.
The takers wear
their gang colors in designer names
on the "right clothes" and accessories
to power lunch and sup gracefully
where prices of named chef's "creations"
guarantee no one with less income
can spy on them from the next table.
In secure top floor offices
they freely assure each other
they have taken what's rightly theirs
and need never "contribute" from it
to infrastructure, disease control, or public knowledge levels,
because they are the "right" people
with all the "right" values.
They don't shop-lift, snatch-purses, steal packages.
They only poison the air,
spreading cancer to generations
in low-cost housing
outside refinery fences
while cutting the funding
for hospitals and clinics.
They only make multi-millions
from manufacturers creating
mountains of toxic waste dumps
to poison local water sources
and anything edible living in them.
Marie H. Lewis
Off the Rails
Train rolls and pitches side to side
On tracks uneven and under-repaired
When those who can decide
Refuse to even hear the crisis aired
The ancient roadbed for these tracks
Has settled here, pushed up there
This old roadbed and deadly cracks
Life not worth the holy lucre
It would take to make the hacks
Under the tainted dome save
American lives on Memorial Day
From the leaders who make us pay
For them to stay
Under a tainted and now tawdry dome
In the heavily-armed Home of the Brave, redacted in black,
Where love is a doughnut hole in the devil's-food of war,
An orgy of ammo-rounds, accident statistics, gridlock & trauma,
I saw beyond the tortured logic of top-secret think-tanks
To a cratered moon of full-spectrum dominance;
Beyond the Sandman status quo of brain-dead toothy smiles,
I heard the tragic language of quiet desperation
Slouching down a nightmare birth canal to radio Mars.
In the hollowed-out city of empty pockets & overpaid to executives
Whose junkie address is a handicap score on the 19th hole,
Where cut-throats & crooked politicians meet on a side street
Time forgot . . .
Where light-fingered kleptos & tight-wad entrepreneurs
Grease the palms of B-rated bigots & loud-mouthed talk-show hosts
I saw beyond all the weak excuses & hogwash headlines,
Soul-devouring sound-bytes & primetime info-tainments,
Beyond the lotto terminals, slot-machines & fabled instant riches.
In that no-man's land come out of the desert on X-ray Nazi eyes
Leaving behind a hole in the ozone, a barb-wire tomorrow
A chemical nemesis in a single mesmerizing blind-spot,
I saw beyond the oil-slick rainbow of mud & toxic sludge --
Beyond America's dumpster dynasty & dirty laundry
Whose mouth is an open sewer, a government leak,
Its daily bread of unkept promises & broken treaties,
Like an endless tickertape parade, a bloody Trail of Tears . . .
In the cross-bone country of prisons & malls & drive-by anguish
At the intersection of vacant lots & junkyard factories,
The melting-pot propaganda of short-change & crashing markets
My "ars poetica" is the inside-skinny of a wireless imagination
Gathering up daydreams baby-boom delusions & endangered
My anthem is a poem for the homeless & the know-how of Oz,
Where the underfed are fed, the unemployed enjoy legal tender,
And the stupid & cruel go back to school & wise-up
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