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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I am the man
You pay minimum wage
Because it is as low
As you are allowed to go.
My skills are only
Common, and my execution
Ordinary, but I have to
Apply myself repetitively or
No product is delivered,
No cash flows.
The worth of anything
Is the sum of labor
It takes to produce it.
In truth, I am the product
You can learn this
The easy way, or the hard.
Something Will Be Done Here
Carlos, our dishwasher, called &
said he couldn't come in today,
that he had a temperature of 103.
The boss yelled at him over the
phone, half in Spanish, & seemed
on the verge of apoplexy,
& I guess he fired Carlos; I heard
him scream, "No Mas!"
Carlos was a great employee, never
missed a day in two years
up till now. He was always polite &
& was studying law at night over at
& I guess that Law is a good thing
when some gringo sonofabitch spits
in your eye.
Cheese Cutter Prisons, let open your gates --
A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.
--from Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali
Four floors below me workmen are breaking asphalt on a Monday morning.
They crack it with a jackhammer,
then hack it with shovels, slapscrape an arrhythmic tattoo
that won't allow sleep, whether or not I close my eyes.
So I open them, annoyed, hear a man outside my door vacuuming,
pull a pillow over my head, once more curse being unemployed.
Disabled, rather, ever since arthritis ate my ankle, made
getting out of bed a daily gamble
I'm pissed that I stay home now, write all night, sleep the hours I
used to work, take medicines that make me drowsy, live with a
back that hurts. Too many years on my feet,
pivoting the ankle when I worked with cheese,
used wire and an 8 inch knife, cut 40 pound blocks to 64 sticks.
A couple of times I even climbed on tables, dangled my sneakers
off the ends, racked a 2-handled knife two feet long back and forth
cracked 80 pound wheels of parmesan. Centered my sternum
over the cheese and pushed down, rocking with shoulders, biceps,
cleaving wheels along their crystals, the cracking halves with a
metal paddle pointed on one end. Those wheels broke wide and
salty for me, jagged edges forming mountain ranges
on chunks the size of my hand.
I needed the job to pay college loans due before my thesis was done
while I kept a household going on mental health aide's pay.
Turned out to be for the best boss ever, who trusted me to keep
the cases filled, brought me in Saturdays to train new kids,
Sundays to order cheese for mid-week. Still, the guts of it
was simply cutting cheese. Push, pull, strain, reach,
use muscles in the back,bull blocks and wheels that would help make a meal.
Six years in, arthritis formed a nub next to a cervical disc,
pressed a nerve to my right arm, halted my use of the wire.
Then the left ankle ached increasingly each
week, its throb keeping me up, robbing me of needed sleep.
That was the end of my cutting career, but I still ground big wheels,
talked with people, stocked cheese. By then I'd gone back for a
second bachelor's degree --
trying to build a world where money was easier, no longer an
enemy but a useful commodity, where I could work one job and
have weekends free.
When did I stop believing? After that last degree,
when no job came from my American dream --
except the ubiquitous adjunct faculty,
educated underclass working almost for free,
spat out quickly by the education machine
once it started minimizing full-time gigs,
screwed teachers and kids by way of frugality.
By then most companies sent jobs overseas
to make everyone happy except working people,
which meant no one was hurt, no one they could see.
Oh for the magical years before trade agreements!
For the even older days before trickle-down theory!
We could hope then, and even the lowest among us did --
casserole-dinner families who staycationed before it was named,
whose kids need a piece of a dream that's lost its meaning,
so there's not much point in working hard, following me,
hurting their health, taking pride in simple jobs like cutting cheese.
I'd like a bowl and pitcher
in my room
but it would be too obvious
I try to keep
a plastic jug
of drinking water
a plastic jug
for a night pot
out of sight
All over town new houses
sound sirens like guns
Oh what I'd give
if I should live
to live all over one
In God We Trust
The word of god: e pluribus unum,
novus ordo seculorum, pay up
& make me a winner (despite
how many people
have to be losers) or at least
make me feel like a
billion more dollars!
E . . . the 99% . . .
fall into the pit of Wall Street; hell
is the bonus they have earned
as dollar bills stand
in for the vote, but the moneyed
class, if We amend
the constitution, don't have a prayer.
Dana Stamps, II
Outside That Box
In the days of yore things were simple enough
for the captains of industry: treat the workers
like disposable chattel. Starve most of them
into submission; shoot a few; give their leaders
and the bards the "Joe Hill" treatment.
Bribe a few congressman, rent a governor
or two and have a cottage in Providence.
For mere captains of industry.
But, lo . . . it was revealed to some of these
mere captains of industry that they were
mere captains, not generals. From on high
it was revealed to some that to be a general
of commerce it would be necessary to control
every aspect of commerce, every one.
Gurus whispered in certain ears
that it would be necessary
to THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
in order to be a real general of commerce.
Oh, my yesss . . . yesss it would be necessary
to be even more unethical, to redefine boundaries,
then to transcend sanity itself.
And so it came to pass in those times
that "thinking outside the box"
so innovative, so clever came to be.
And what new vistas were revealed by escaping
that restrictive, constraining box:
establishing absolute control over academia,
sponsoring bogus "scientific" research of every description;
doing marketing "research" that twisted facts until they died.
Progress, Oh yeah but not really that much outside the box,
(lying is not really outside the commercial box).
so . . . how about, oh maybe
those outside-the-box people thought
marketing cigarettes to minors using cartoonish figures
(that Joe Camel is cool)
marketing sugary gateway drug to toddlers here
(Cap'n Crunch is cool too)
and exploiting child labor in third world countries.
Say, how about using pre-pubescent nudity to advertise jeans?
That's way outside any box but it'll work too.
And how about visiting professional and personal destruction
upon any and all who speak up? Only reasonable, really.
(Planes crash every day, you know)
Hey now war is good business so let's foment and fan
conflicts everywhere and sell "product" to both sides
that they might conduct suddenly-hot wars.
Yes . . . yes . . . works for the bottom line.
This thinking outside the box is good so how about
some made-up things called financial instruments,
called derivatives or some such gibberish,
investing heavily in them, making this huge
financial aneurysm to scare the shit out of everyone
meanwhile getting "too big to fail" and then
get the people we just screwed to bail out our asses
and hey, let's bring under-the-counter trading
and insider trading and suchlike in from the cold.
and then do it again and again and again.
Cool and way outside any old box. Yep.
And now the box is almost full to bursting
like an infected appendix with all that poison
pulled from outside the box, but wait . . .
there's a lot of hungry people out there.
Does anybody here remember that old s-f movie
Can you say, "Green Eggs and Sam?"
I bet that Generals of Commerce can.
Lotus of a Thousand Mondays
Corporate koan versus labor koan,
You work, management smiles
Tool, meet hand.
The nature of things
becomes as obvious as a wheel
rolled on top of your foot.
Hand, meet hands
Bingo! -- Enlightenment.
A light splits the universe!
Gods and devils tremble!
A member of the working class wakes up
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