Spring 2019


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

So Far Away from the Nightingale

It is 6:05 am and still dark in the L.A. basin and one of the men
on the shop floor has already thrown open the big overhead tin doors to the sky
we tap
with hammers turn screws lock cutters into holders shove hand
grinders into compressed-air-hose nozzles and cut
and grind and sand aluminum and steel and look out those doors
and no one mentions the drought as we wait
for the big storm our newspapers and smartphones predicted
no one mentions the drought
or global warming
as we handle parts that will fit into spaceships for companies
that will soon try to send men to Mars
but as we walk to the loading docks beneath the big thrown-open
doors and look for drops of rain someone will occasionally mutter,
"We sure could use the rain,"
and finally it begins to rain
lightly
but nowhere near the all-day-and-night downpour storm the weathermen predicted
then it stops
and the sun comes out and it is the middle of March and maybe
we'll get no more rain this year
and we cut and tap and sand our spaceship parts and think of Mars
that hasn't seen a drop of rain in a billion years
has no tigers or trees or air
we can breathe
not one flower or river
or lion roar
no one mentions the drought
or global warming
no one has to
as the palm tree fronds turn brown and we lick our lips
and the sky begins to turn blue
and I think of Mars
a dot of red light in the cold sky so far away
from symphonies
and the bones of Shakespeare and the songs
of the nightingale.

      Fred Voss


Some Days I Hate the Factory

My friend, a coworker, nailed it
when he said he hates the factory
because too many people punch in
and they never punch back out
The factory is the pinnacle of their education
This is where they'll get their degree
Majoring in car notes and Disney World Vacations
The factory means security in big suburban houses
The factory means a new SUV every year
The factory means a time-share at Myrtle Beach

I knew my friend had nailed it
This is why I write poems at 6:05 am
when the assembly line stops for 6 minutes
This is why I read books on my 15 minute breaks
I don't want to graduate from the factory.

The factory means I can buy art
and almost all the books that I want
The factory means annual vacations
to underground literary festivals
The factory means concert tickets
and chasing tough luck dreams in Vegas poker games
The factory means freedom for 14 hours a day
The factory means pockets full of cigarettes
and tanks full of gasoline for weekend adventures

My friend is right
Some days I hate the factory
because I can only tolerate so much talk about sports
Some days I hate the factory
because I don't understand American dreams
Some days I hate the factory
knowing that in 22 years
I'll graduate anyway
and limp away with a degree I never really wanted
Some days I hate the factory
because I'm afraid
I'll never punch back out.

       Dan Denton


Industrialization

Mass production
Humanity reduced to an operation
A twist, a turn, a screw
Inhuman sacrifice of reason
Dignity slain
Irrational and insane
Standing eight hours on end
Buzzing, humming, clicking banging
Infinite line
Parched lips, dry throat
Feet pulsating, sore
The god of efficiency
The lord of profitability
A corporation
Pennies to the pauper
Dividends for the idle share holder
Capital supreme
A perverted sadistic dream
Absurd
Rewarding the lazy
Society divided
Rich and poor
Endless contempt in class war
Adam Smith Karl Marx
Life is not money
Mammon is master cruel
See the mirror, see the fool.

       John Kaniecki


Work Train

In a gondola car,
no pretty Italian maidens, just
a few broken down old men lifers
and our gang of young don't want to be
lifers stacking fifteen pound tie plates
on the car's side in a Dante's inferno of
leftover coal dust and iron ore. Sun
ricocheting within, gluing that dust to
sweat soaked bodies. It is part of my Summer's
work and wages in 1972. We creep
the length of the railyard like a glacier
of steel then through the crossing, stop
while the foreman throws the switch.
Our glacier retreats on the parallel track
a diorama from an old west movie
come to life for those waiting in
air conditioned cars, the bell still clanging.
We smoke cigarettes this short break,
flick the butts with just the right
amount of contempt and cockiness

      Ben Onachila


Sandy

Sandy works the pizza oven at Dash's
She already put in 25 years at St. Mark's
and got laid off.
I ask her if she got a pension.
"Pension? From a Catholic school?"
And here she is six days a week
in her '70's flipping pizza dough
and working that hot oven
for less than $15/hr.
I like the mushroom/veggie;
but what is her comfort
at the end of the day,
or in the years to come
when she still can't sit down
and take a simple deep breath?

      Gene Grabiner


Plasma

For an hour or so he'll be
a human pin cushion. But
they pay 75 dollars per
donation.
Three times and he'll have
bus fare to his next
exile.
After lights out
you can hear the
economy stripping him
naked.
Soon he'll be nothing but
a glowing speck of
hunger
weightless
then not even that.

      John Carter


I Hear America Singing -- Off Key

Sailor of the month, teacher of the
year, phlebotomists who always get
their vein on the first try and
hear -- I didn't feel anything!
This is not for you.
This is for all the

gardeners who dig up the moonflowers
grandma bicycled to your beach house
the gardener who left the poison ivy?
lord'll make you itch
for the accountant who can't
        add it up
the lawyers you could replace
         with muggers
the doctors who kill you
the cooks who make you sick
the carpenters, plumbers, artists,
dog walkers who you know
lose your dog. Some people ought not
to be working, they try to tell you.
You try to tell them.
But an economy has to move.
Doesn't it?      Whatever
an economy is.

Free Trade, she says, Stock Exchange.
An extreme sport for the gods of Mt. Olympus

      Mary Franke


Blame

It was not secured therefore it toppled
When the child tried to climb. Something
Was at fault. Design or neglect. The sin
Of omission.

An innocent object, a dresser meant
for clothes, a shelf for toys
Exacting a lifetime of regret
A lifetime of prevention.

"Those who would sacrifice
Liberty for security deserve neither"
Said Benjamin Franklin. Another pearl
Of wisdom flawed in an age
Of checkpoints and walls, shoes removed
To board, a gun for every good man,
Each pill with its list of dangers
From itch to dying.

Who can sleep through storms?
Who finds relief in changing passwords?
Which foods are gluten-free
And does it matter when it might
Harbor listeria. An urban coyote stalks
Your bichon frise.

Some days you might as well
Overdose on the percocets you've been
Hoarding against the diagnosis.
There's blame enough to make
The devil tango in the flames
Of all you forgot to heed.

       Joan Colby


Folk Story

It's lunch time in a mosque tower.
Elsewhere, there's a motherload
of lockjaw in the Whitehouse,
a thickening inattention behind curtains.

Those I love can't bear it. In that rich
lore of Trump's mouth, truth rots.
There isn't a single tooth
in his head not rusted out by gold.

Look inside, what do you see?
-- an obsessed ego, abscessed heart,
an empty socket. He drains
the lifeblood out of the Republic,

swamps of malice pooling
his every foot step, a matter
of unfettered bereavement
I hardly have strength enough

anymore to talk about.
So, what's it going to be
watching his big ass parade
rambling by, his engines

of deceit on fire, hacks and hooks,
ladders and hoses breaking
free, losing it around corners,
cabals of spineless senators

hanging on for dear life?
Seems our Constitution's
not smart enough to stymie the man
spinning his whims on a dime.

lying through his teeth,
licking the cleats of tyrants,
pocketing the change.
On the back streets of America

kids skip school, bullet-ridden,
climate-changed, holding parades
of their own, butterfly-winged,
whale-fluked, beluga-crewed,

preppy proof, NRA rude,
issue-driven, serious,
pledging allegiance
to what they've just begun

learning and caring about.

       John Holbrook


Contemplating My Own Lynching

The night the Ku Klux Klan threatened to cut me
from asshole to appetite

I lay awake contemplating my own lynching

It was Nacogdoches, Texas where Bill Sam and me were warned of Klan activity

Deep in the East Texas Piney Woods where racism was accepted and expected

People still lived on plantations where workers still learned
who's boss and who must be obeyed

Young tough and hard Bill toting Lil' Sister, his piece

We challenged plantation ways across East Texas

Organizing African-American women healthcare workers
like Carrie Williams

On strike in Beaumont where the Klan came night riding
in pickup trucks

Mid-eighties Reagan president full scale assault
on workers and their unions

Yet those women of courage stood up night after night,
one beat up, put in the hospital, they never quit

Hundreds won their unions as twelve healthcare facilities organized

They won wage increases and insurance,
but mostly they won their own power and
collective power in community
of resistance to ancient hatreds.

       Stewart Acuff


Roar Brothers and Sisters

Who makes the earth so beautiful?
It's our industrious working hands.
Who makes the cities prosperous and brilliant?
It's our sweat and blood of working.

Why are they above everybody else?
Workers should be masters of society.
Smash the shackles of Power and Capital
Unite! Continue to struggle!

Roar! Workers
We can't stand it anymore.

In those hard times
We have contributed, silently.
Now they are taking everything from us
and force our families to collapse.

They and we can't talk together.
We have no common experience with them.
Don't expect us to be willing to be slaves.
Look, we have to overthrow their world and
turn it upside down.

Roar! Worker brothers and sisters
We can't stand it anymore.

       Wu Ji


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