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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The inverted legs of wooden chairs
protrude into silence,
where the anger he's experiencing
is like the vacant space beneath the tables
with only a few damp streaks left to show
where someone has swept a string mop
across the unglazed tiles.
All the kitchen help left hours ago,
and now there's only the manager
sitting alone in the gloom,
studying his reflection
in a stainless steel coffee urn
and inhaling a bit of bitterness
as he empties its final dregs.
His anger is like that,
steeped in everyday weariness
with an aftertaste of failure
although there's apparently nothing wrong
or nothing one can readily identify
by looking inward through plate glass
from the rainy street.
odd to look back
on a life's work --
how it solidifies
things done, or
because a boss
refused to pay
efforts and effects
how much of
a working life
its transmission --
what I wanted, or
you wanted, what
we might have
I worked a teenage summer in that mill,
Above the slips where ore ships used to dock.
It sits abandoned on a wooded hill.
It's peeled walls seem to reach now from the rock,
The way the melting tundra frees her dead:
Defiant mammoths now just woolly husks.
The gypsum plant's a hollow beast, unfed,
Hushed trumpetings, machines like broken tusks.
Now rusting girders have no roof to bear,
And smelting kettles no more sting of fire,
Like tired soldiers who've run out of fear
Like battered lovers emptied of desire.
The sight of it tweaks sinews in my back,
remembering hot work in choking air:
The crow bar, shovel and the pallet stack,
The hungry breeze that ruffled thick, blonde hair.
A Generation of Exiles
"Finish school and get out of this town.
There's nothing for you here,"
for a boy, belly-down among Legos.
But his father knew.
He knew the burn of the furnace
and the smoldering rage
of layoffs and rust
in Reagan's golden age.
And the boy knew.
He knew his father was home
more than he should be
and that his father's hand
swallowed his own
as they waited together in line
at the unemployment office --
The only place in town
where business was booming
On Hold While Applying for State Health Care
Jazz plays as I wait
for my case to be verified.
This is not jazz but jazz tamed,
sold and played in a million offices
and stuck between the walls
of an elevator that only
goes up and down.
The line repeats itself,
saying the same thing over
and over again:
You are on hold.
The saxophone blares eternal optimism
but you are on hold,
below the Federal Poverty Line,
classified, filed, a submitted statistic,
maybe recorded for quality purposes,
but still: on hold.
There is a brief, silent pause
before the jazz loop begins again.
Is someone picking up?
Has the call been dropped?
But the official music returns:
You are waiting, who
knows how long,
perhaps for nothing,
but for now, with how many
Equator of Anguish
While you were reading sonnets to summer & regret,
Melancholy odes to nowhere in nonsense verse,
Trying to forget the rhythms of last week's news cycle.
Violence swept over the sleepy Elysium of earth.
At the midnight anthem to mind-control & cold, hard cash
A top-secret whispering dis-information campaign
Was waged at taxpayer's expense, in crisis-mode,
For bragging rights to my cell-lines and DNA.
I applied for patents on my tortured phantom limbs,
Auctioned off my toothless smile to the ruling class
And registered my born-again genetic code
In the smoke-filled Offices of Odds & Ends.
Tightening security in my web-world,
Calibrating eye-winks for my cathode-ray
Beamed to my boob-tube by satellite link,
Encrypting my knee-jerk response in the dumb-down,
Globalizing my slush fund, my underground silo
By immanent domain on doomsday, ahead of the curve,
I laundered a loophole in the ozone out in no-man's land,
Perfecting my push-button pyramid scheme,
Powering-up my moonlit propaganda machine,
Privatizing a shadowy empire of small arms,
Courtesy of greed, the mercenary shock-troops of Spring,
And the crumbling infrastructure of Sunset Boulevard.
Agents of the Bureau of Undeclared Wars
Fighting it out nightly by government leak,
Pitted innocent children & the desperately poor
Against mail-order tyrants & murderous puppet regimes.
Zombie fundamentalists & frozen embryo clones
Redacted the blowback with fast-track futures!
Death-squad extras & homesick suicide bombers
Redistributed an equator of anguish & orphan refugees
Across the broken heart of a lost continent
Where no one (not even God) hears what happens;
Where hard truth, in real-time, goes chronically
Unreported, and Kronos devours his young.
E. P. Fisher
You May Laugh at Us
You may laugh at us
who feed on crumbs
that fall from your table
We who tend your gardens
and clean your stables
you who enjoy the feast
picking the bones of those
who have the least
You, your pockets lined
with fossil fuels
a graduate of the
you were taught
to kick the mule
you gangster capitalist,
reading Ayn Rand will
bring you no relief
Oh, say can you see
the purple mountains majesty
as the world takes you
under the rising sea
America's Failure to Thrive
Because a nation built on slavery
a nation built on the profits
from millions in profit prisons
The babies in orphanages die even
when they are fed and kept warm
if there is no one to rock them to
In the immigrant prisons the guards
are not allowed to hold the crying
This amnesia cannot thrive
My mind screams all the time
My mind screams all the time
(and I am living with this
and they will not)
Wake Up Call
The desperate screams of
the language the
Tears at my soul
at the hearts
of those still human
of what fascism
beyond symbols and
beyond bigotry and talking points
the monsters unleashed
we have become.
what needs to be done.
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