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 take an autumn trail
aching scarlet, dying to brown,
the hush this day the breathy weariness
of early rising wage workers,
the drunkard whose wine awakens him,
the assassin and the troubled lover leaning on their pens.
The toy whistle of the mid-town Metro
sounds a crossing above the stillness.
kitchen staffers wheel their mountain bikes,
gleaming in fresh button downs, black Dockers.
A Mercedes thrusts by, sleekly silver.
I stop beside my car,
splash dregs of chicory coffee across the median,
toss newspaper and pack to the passenger side.
Tension tightens my neck to an ache.
An acid sweep of high, dry wind hits
and I curse a little.
November brings no more than June --
no easeful rain, no better jobs,
no news more helpful than a lie.
The reaping sun won't rise for another ninety minutes.
Today, again, I surrender to survival.
The edge of day begins at this roadside.
The Working Dead "Here's your gold watch
and shackles for your chains."
They want your complete
and absolute devotion
for little more than the minimum wage
Don't even think about
applying for another job
If you've been working long
enough to entertain ideas about
maybe asking for a raise,
they remind you, "Lots of other
guys are out of work."
They don't need to draw you a picture
They feel entitled to your body,
your mind and your time;
don't exactly tell you not to fall ill,
call in sick, or get injured but, if you do,
it better be on your time
And they are not shy about reminding
your that health care is a commodity,
not a right; if you can't afford it,
you are shit out of luck
Instead of a pension plan
they have already obtained first rights
on your soul: no money down, no staggering
And the option is renewal ad infinitum
It's all in the small print of your contract
Too bad you didn't read it
Trust us everything is in order and there is
no way out
Death is not an option.
Memo to the Front Office
Labor is canceled indefinitely
because for those living
on the top of the world
you send children to extract gold
from the depths of the earth.
Because our unions hemorrhage
while you get transfusions of cash.
Because it takes three jobs
to keep the lights on.
Because the fruits of our labor
fill your basket first.
Because there is still no escape
when the fire starts to blaze.
Because you gild your parachutes
by cutting our bootstraps.
But we get it!
If we quit
you can't be a mover, a shaker,
a maker or even a contender.
We can bedevil your mind
and your bottom line
because you have known
since the beginning
we have you outnumbered.
The Peasants, The Proletariat,
The Great Unwashed,
and The Huddled Masses.
Invisible Hands For Adam Smith
An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations leads
to an invisible hand of the market but to invisible hands
of the martyrs. Hands interlocked like cinderblocks, not holding out
for a handout, but lending a hand, hands raised as fists.
The carpenter's tawny hands, raw and sawdusted, defiled and
unwashed, eating breadcrumbs and crusts off the lunchtruck.
The metalworker's hands flaked with iron filings, leaned over the
leadscrew of his lathe, his palms cupping the headstock.
The Sanitation worker's hands slicked with sludge, chicken grease
and salmonella slopped on trashbags, mired but not admired.
The mechanic's grease-creased hands, gnarled knuckles like stripped
lugnuts, chapped and chaffed into deformed shapes.
The migrant worker's hands, mangled to mittens, picking the fruit
that feeds the faces until her fingertips tear to bone.
The lumberjack, woodcutter, hands calloused from felling axes, skin
ragged as a singing saw. The tie hacks bleed like snowmelt.
The seamstress cross-stitching, chain stitching, lockstitching, attaching grommets
darning with arthritic fingers that have become brass cylinder thimbles.
The stevedore's frostbit hands, damaged from moving dunnage,
unloading containers, cargo, crates; his arms longshoreman's hooks.
The steel fixer cranes his neck as a construction crane, his gloves
can't ease the strain of a coil of rebar in his grip.
The supermarket cashier's hands papercut by crudely clipped coupons,
waxened by routine wipe-downs of the conveyor belt.
The nurse's hands, brittle as ancient brickwork, from repeated
anti-bacterial foam washings to prevent the spread of germs.
Adam Smith, I'm laughing as a young man laughs. Hands are
painted blood-red, like a rood. Hands clapping to put you in a revolutionary mood.
A History of Peace
The official version of the history of peace
Is a history of papers
Being signed by men in elegant black suits
Or majestic white flowing robes
Signing documents creating peace accords,
Great walls and not-so-great-walls
Carving out newly drawn maps
Saying who will go where and be what
Yet leaving gaping holes in the minds
Of the people now on the move.
As to how or why
The unabridged unrated women and children's version
Of the history of peace
Is also a history of papers
Letters read and re-read
Documenting all that's left of the men
Their men became during the history of war.
For the displaced children of Palestine
It's the saying of goodbyes
To cherished pets, fertile olive groves, and beloved ancestral homes
Left behind with the drawing of new maps.
It's also a history of clothes
Made so by nightmares of traumas
Their warriors lived through in worse places and worse times.
It's a history of beds
Where adjustments must be made to accommodate new truths
Where bodies with missing limbs
Learn to conform to new postures of embrace and desire
A history of mending raggedy clothes
That must be readied
For the next round of hundreds of miles
To yet another refugee camp.
It's a history of saying and hushing
About why villagers hate them
For being born to mothers
Raped by newly found or recycled enemies.
For the lost boys of Sudan
It's a history of holes
No longer in the soles of shoes
That trekked across the African continent
But right here and now
In the pictures of their proud manhood
Missing the faces of their forever lost fathers and mothers.
The monumental but moment to moment history of peace
For women and children
Is a history of the trajectory of re-discovering joy
And giving comfort
In wet fractured beds and bedclothes
Of the courage to dodge the land mines
Created by the holes and the papers and the clothes
Booby traps that would compromise the peace time joy and comfort
They need to rely on to get them through
Until they're called upon again
To support their men
In the next historical round of war.
with you, i searched for someone to blame
though the predicament isn't our own
we are part of it
we waste air
waste the very skins that save us
waste it in the name
of a lemon scented room
an air conditioned car
waste it away for perfectly sculpted hair
with you i searched for a wayward sign
that this isn't the beginning of the end
i searched, but only found
in the ground
in the food pyramid in television
pesticide mixes finely with the hormones
that sleep in our beds
it's been injected into religion
into the facets which turn the gears in
injected into this relationship
even though we are no longer together
i miss you like i miss a train
last call, or a job interview
'cause tomorrow is tomorrow,
and today has already passed,
all i ever wanted was to watch
the world destroy itself
Annual Checkup Report
Is so fat, it's thin.
Its ribs are showing,
Its hollow flanks.
The Empire is so strong
Its skeleton is cracking,
Internal organs collapsing
Under all that muscle.
The Empire is so rational
It's mad, so protective,
All are in terror.
That it's consumptive,
So satiated that it's
It has no clothes,
So exceptional that
We take exception.
It's one vast prison.
In its tyranny,
It spies on us all
It's a charnel house.
All in all,
Another good year.
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