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 treat every day
like a day away
from work on my
hour lunch and two
I walk out of the
cubicle of despair
into the great
take a brisk walk
to clear my soul.
The farther away I
get is a journey.
I am absolved
of all the things
that kill my heart
and grind me down.
I work hard when I
work and give it
my all. But I don't
let the work kill
me. If I can help
myself, I will.
Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabál
Call it America
In the poultry processing plants in Arkansas
Management allows so few bathroom breaks
Grace King wears a diaper each twelve-hour shift on the kill line.
Sometimes her children go to bed hungry
Her wages too low to make rent and still buy groceries.
After six years on the job she can barely straighten her fingers,
Use a spoon, or hold her daughter's hand.
At church, when she sings the Sunday hymns,
Feathers fly from her open mouth,
Her blood-stained fingertips a more truthful shade of red
than the color on the flag outside the kill-line gate.
some days came and went easily
others passed slowly
and you don't forget
you accepted what others passed over
the produce man saved
and greens past their prime
drove on used tires
wore second-hand clothes
sweated in summer
froze in winter
because the garage apartment
allowed what was out to come in
and what was in to go out
live on a pittance
never wasting a cent
bound to rigor and discipline
believing tomorrow would be better
but that was an empty dream
that faded into stolid silence
now was the only time
you knew and came to accept
because better days
came for somebody else
to live it is to know it
down into your core
but it takes a toll on you soul
My Student Loan
pushing your warty and wrinkled cheeks
out of official stationary --
no need to be so formal.
We've, known each other for at least as long
as people have been grinding wheat into bread,
or waking behind the wagons,
picking rocks from fields
where winter still sleeps in the black earth.
I carry my deceased education
in a little toy coffin on my back.
But the loan -- ah!
And how did you get so immense?
I could tie your shoes without bending over!
What have they been feeding you
in the vaults of that far university?
I look up from the dead leaves
I keep shoveling over my shoulder
into the wind, and wonder why
your gothic shadow doesn't cool my brow.
I gather up my dust and the end of the month,
work the calculator,
return the clouds to the river.
I open up a letter and inside is a headsman,
thoughtfully testing his ax with his thumb,
nothing personal to his professional skill.
You send me exploding Christmas cards.
There was a land
Where the dream was:
We can all do well.
For reasons no one understands --
But which might have to do
With a constant reinforcement
Of the people's meanest
Fears and needs and
Emotional shortcomings --
The dream became:
Anyone of us might become
One of the few who can do
Not only well, but opulently.
There were enough assets going around
That a limited number of citizens
Could have mercilessly many.
The key to acceptance of this distribution
Scheme was keeping publicly open
The supposed opportunity
For anyone to rise
Above the otherwise depressing herd.
But soon after, the idea
That mattered to everyone became thoughts
Of actual division --
The sorting and assignment --
Into winners and losers.
In theory, anyone could be
A winner, but in practice
Winners begat winners;
Losers begat losers.
Open opportunity might have mattered,
But the act of winning or losing, itself,
Turned out to be the key to winning or losing.
And that became all the more reason
For showering oneself with one's opulence,
For making a garish show of the contest's
Largely uncontested outcome.
Soon, the constant glare of affluence
Became the end in itself.
But by then, there was no dream at all..
Carpenters with the art department for the crew
that will be filming scenes for a movie on my porch
two days from now arrived this morning to build
a false wall over the natural wood siding on the outside
of my house on my porch so they can paint
the tongue-and-groove boards they are erecting
a light grey to match the color of the siding
on the rest of my house. By late afternoon
it's clear they're going to have the whole wall
done soon and I comment about how inexpensive
carpentry would be if all carpenters were as quick
as they are. They point out that the wall will
only be up for six days before it winds up in pieces
in a dumpster. Besides it's only propped up
where it stands, which is perhaps where the word
prop came from. Still, I'm impressed. At
this rate they could build a false wall around
the whole outside of my house in less than
a week. Of course walls that are only for show
don't make very good houses. Walls
that are only for show don't make for
very good anything except props for movies
and plays, which are the only places
walls that are only for show belong.
Matthew J. Spireng
inspired by Professor Blasey Ford and other survivors
Every predator pimp knows this:
If a person has been hurt or bullied,
they are vulnerable, shunned from intimacy
and targeted because they are damaged.
Then the wolf shows up and makes eye contact,
pretends to be kind, empathetic,
cuts off and isolates the injured deer from the herd.
We have a place for truth and reconciliation
for the slave-ship captain who woke up
appalled by his behavior,
wrote AMAZING GRACE and became an abolitionist.
But these guys, our President,
Senators, Supreme Court appointees,
who uphold Structural Entitlement to Rape,
I suspect they rape their own daughters,
and belong to a league of men who do this.
As a man a million years in the animal kingdom
and genetically programmed to protect women,
I apologize for my inadequacy and failure.
Our instincts to protect have resulted in vigilante justice and
lynching, often with women screaming at us to commit these murders.
How to make amends for these shortcomings?
As grandfathers served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Fight Against Fascism,
could we serve in World Court Sanctioned
that hunt child predators, serial rapists, and human traffickers in
the fashion that Simon Wiesenthal
hunted Nazi bosses and war criminals?
Recall the black and white photographs of a white mob
leering over the burnt body of a black man,
another burnt body hanging castrated from a tree,
of three black men broken out of a Duluth city jail
and hanged from the lamp post.
How do we deconstruct the trauma,
multidimensional and ancient,
deconstruct the misogynist patriarchy
along with the matrix of For Profit prisons
that results in a permanent cast system?
Any of us who own stock or 401ks
benefit from this as sure as slave owners.
The United States is more depraved than
South Africa at its worst.
As horrific as Nazi Germany and their collaborators were,
the Germans I know admit to these crimes, are committed
to making amends,
have rebuilt a progressive society. End of story.
The nation we live in has murdered
as many as 100 million Native Americans
and continues to do so.
Who still denies the holocaust here?
Compared to the dilemma of Americans,
it is easier for Germans to be accountable
as they committed genocide only in the 20th century,
modeled Auschwitz after Indian reservations,
and modeled the transport in boxcars after
the transports of Natives.
How can we not know this?
Our New Nation has committed genocide for over
four hundred years.
In the USA, we use deflection and blame to avoid the facts,
by running false control issues, which is dishonest and abusive.
In Europe between 600 AD and 1800,
a conservative average of 5 million women a century
burned at the stake, tortured, mutilated, murdered
comes to around 40 million,
all intelligent and progressive. So that's the
misogyny driven holocaust.
People have yelled at me for suggesting these histories,
these comparisons, claiming I know nothing of holocausts.
I am of mixed ancestry.
My family members died in the Native holocaust,
the Irish holocaust,
and The Holocaust that took place under Nazism.
My family and close friends have been murdered
by the KKK who also blew up our house.
I look Irish, have light skin,
can get by the cops without getting pulled over or frisked.
I am a white-people whisperer.
As a result of privilege and class and the narrative
fed to us from the time we were born,
most Americans live in the Matrix of unreality.
Awakening is painful experience. I hope compassionate
people will be there when that happens.
Now let's get to work.
Deconstruct and awaken!
I've listened to you,
of American Power, who assign
me enemies, who hire
the agile-minded to design
instruments of annihilation,
who've issued, in my lifetime,
commands to let the blood
of eight million
I've lived in granite mountains
labored long beneath the sky.
There's nothing left in me
for you to employ
I've turned away
from your voices,
your murderous schemes. Out here
on Starvation Ridge
I feed sticks into a fire
and let your flames
dance in my eyes.
It's these times
or a depression caused by these times.
What can one write
when reality is stranger than fiction,
when every day the news is a script
from a horror film, every news item
building suspense toward the protagonist's doom?
Only it's one's entire species
that is the doomed protagonist.
Who is directing this spectacle anyway?
Are we all just bit players in the cast of billions
lorded over by over-paid stars?
Could we yet write ourselves a role
that could turn this tragedy
into an heroic epic: wherein the monster
is vanquished, the asteroid avoided
the bomb doesn't explode
the demonic villain is done in?
And in which, afterward, the bit players
form their own company,
a cooperative, that launches a world tour
spreading the good news.
When She Has Stumbled Almost to her Knees
When history begins the dirge
When the massive fascist weight has squeezed all it can from us
When the King of Corrupt Capitalism humbles her to her own people
Then, democracy in America must be rebuilt
America can never again be America without democracy
Democracy of our politics so a person is a person
and a corporation ain't
Where everyone is registered and encouraged to vote
Where neither the GOP nor any other dare campaign on hate, and bigotry is banished from debate
Democracy where everyone is cherished and none dismissed
Democracy of our economy where no child is hungry,
where no family lives in poverty, where every worker has
a union and every vet a home, where the walls of income, privatization, tax scams and
cronyism between the rich and the rest of us are torn to the ground.
Rebuilding America must mean a rebirth
of universal democracy.
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