Spring 2020

The Blue Collar Review is a quarterly journal of poetry and prose published by Partisan Press. Our mission is to expand and promote
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Poetry Samples from the Latest Issue

Smoke Break

I didn't smoke but it didn't matter.
For two minutes everyone got freed
from the monotony of the assembly
line to slip out of the propped-open
door signed Keep Closed At All Times.
The mill never shut down
so there were floaters on every crew
to give the breaks the law required.
Smoke break wasn't authorized
but management turned a blind eye
to keep the smokers happy.
The non-smokers too, who craved
a breath of air not filtered by dust
mask. The door opened to a ledge
above the Androscoggin River.
I worked the nightshift; I barely
could see the water below my feet.
I'd take the earplugs out to hear
its sweep. Upstream, other mills
and factories struggled like this one
to stay alive. Nights they stayed
closed the air was precious --
in my two minutes of time
I could clear my lungs. And nights
they were open, the air that emanated
from the water they polluted
still had a use -- astringent
as smelling salts, it jolted me awake.

       Rick Swann

Bank Exchange

The last time the economy fell off a cliff
we had the banks to blame

They were selling mortgaged backed securities
and worthless paper

People lost their homes and jobs
and their small businesses

Now we have a virus to blame

Goodbye food and beverage
goodbye tips
goodbye work
hello unemployment

Now all we have to do
is apply for government assistance

That's now handled by the banks.

      Lyle Estill

We Are The Lions

The new C.E.O. comes marching out of the office
with a line of engineers draftsman salesman managers from
the office behind him
they file
down the concrete aisles and stop
at various of our machines and clasp their hands behind their
backs and rock up and down
on their heels as the manager tries to explain
what we do with our lives on the shop floor
in a few words
"Looks like they're on a field trip,"
the Le Blonde engine lathe operator says
and we set down our wrenches and dial indicators and set-up
blocks and remember elementary school field trips we took
to zoos
where we stopped and stared
at lions behind fences in concrete pens
"Yeah, we must look pretty strange to them,"
Ariel the boring mill operator says
picking at the black stinking grease under his fingernails
as the C.E.O. sticks out his chest in his starched spotless
white shirt
and points
at control panels and gear shifts and men
and talks
about increasing efficiency
we are the lions
with our dirty hands and our feet on a grimy concrete floor
and as the C.E.O. and engineers and managers walk back into
their carpeted offices otherworldly
as outer spade
we pace our pens with our lion hearts as our tool steel cutters
groan inside steel
we punch a timeclock and pace our pens in front of our machines
and read the next wave of heartless super-efficient robots and
will soon replace us
we are the lions
last of a noble line to put our hands on machine handles and
feel the trembling of dirty cut steel
in our bones
as the waterfalls pour over rocks and the rockets point
toward Mars and the lions
lift our heads and roar
one last time
trying to wake us to the beauty
of this earth..

       Fred Voss


I am contemplating retirement. I move into the next
Phase of my life. Many questions with no answers.
Fidelity investments will pick up the slack, presume.
It comes at me from all angles.

And the 401K plan. Is it beneficial or detrimental or both?
The workers are dissatisfied and distraught. To reach common
Ground, far from it!

No more incentive wages and fringe benefits.
They argue from sunrise to sunset and from
Sunset to sunrise. The coffee pot ceases to percolate.
Dunkin Donuts and the supermarkets are sound asleep.

No more fiery union meetings. They cease. Their
Twoness: raspy voices and sore throats, from too much
Debating. The owners and union bosses and managers
Are a complex trilogy of discontent. Sometimes, nasty
Fist fights pursue. It comes with the territory.

Not to be his punchclock. But to keep my track record intact.
Despite the inclement weather and those crazy, unstable hours.
5:30 a.m. is miles apart different than 5:30 p.m. I stagger
Into the shower, just to make a hard day's pay. If I'm a no-show
I don't get paid. Worst case scenario ----!

Time is more valuable than money because time is irreplaceable.

Those outlandish medical bills. They mount up to
Mount Everest. They will cease when I'm a forgotten
Soul. My epitaph is written by them, on them. I'm not
Irreplaceable. Please! Don't rush my time, before I march
Down that church aisle. I want to enjoy the fruits of labor.
But the arrogant bosses don't care. The want results not
Complaints. I'm just another commodity erased
from their payrolls.

Politicians and their misleading campaigns. Those promises,
For higher wages and incentive bonuses, broken and empty.
Are they still worth pursuing? Like a Medieval gladiator,
I meet them head on. I ride off into the sunset, quiet and unseen.

      Reg Murray

Hey Mr. Government

Hey Mr. Government, can you spare a dime
I lost my job now everything is on the line
I don't need much, I've already paid some dues
Just a few more unemployment checks to help me make it through

What's that you say, you gave it all away?
To some needy mortgage bankers and GM's Chevrolet
You say don't worry son, when this is said and done
You'll be better off, in oh so many ways

Yeah, I'll tell that widow who lives just 'round the bend
She's hurtn' mighty bad and she's about near her end
She could use a bailout, just a helping hand
Hey Mr. Government, help me understand

Let me tell you son just how it's gonna be
We first take care of them, who first took care of me
There's a lot of needy bankers and makers of cars
and 700 Billion smacks can only go so far

Well that makes a lot of sense to me, I guess I shouldn't bitch
You simply take our money and give it to the rich
And in spite of their incompetence and avarice and graft
They get all the stimulus and we all get the shaft

Hey Mr. Government can you spare a dime
For all your needy people who are waiting on the time
When justice can't be bought and truth no longer spared
On that day the game will change, and we'll all get our share

      Thomas Dunne

America Now

Serving time in solitary
like one sentenced
for a high crime --
committed or framed
Expecting a chokehold:
COVID-19 or bloody
hands suffocating (one)
and then another      another
another      another    on and on
stepping outside ----
their shadow, breathing
deeply like one unafraid
of the chokehold

Radio and TV off, still
I hear the maniac's
messages -- simple
different words, always
meaning: hold them
choke away the life
from deep breathers
who thought they
had the right to breathe
in and out like free men.
His credo: Make America
great again ----- choke
   the others away
resounded in the heartland.

      Shirley Adelman

Since the Ides of March

I turned on caution and
drew this rag over my
nose and mouth
when out
and pulled on gloves
clothed up like a would be
at an old time tea
a gardener eschewing poison ivy
a surgeon gloving up
to lift the guts out of a life
measuring       measuring       measuring
the inning out

People are put out by all this
out of their homes for mortgage due
out of their apartments for working
            in a hospital
out of their families for "safety"

It's been 13 weeks. I know no one
with flu.      Still they tell us
        it is coming, and
        Relax Now! Open up!
More lock down even tighter. Even more emerging
                 Killer hornets . . .

       Mary Franke

Dying for Capitalism
Trump's Death Cult Finally Says it: Time to Kill the "Useless Eaters" for Capitalism -- Salon, March 27, 2020

Not as in, I miss you and I'm dying
to see you again soon.
Which is something
I've said to my grandchildren each day
since their school closed in this pandemic.

My children don't want me to visit
because they love me, and because
I'm among the aging and vulnerable.
Trump's death cult means it literally,
dying for capitalism.

"Useless eaters" they call us, the retired
and unemployed. In the view of the elites
loyalty to country should lead the elderly
to sacrifice what's left of their short lives
for the sake of the economy.

Capitalism has been killing us,
for hundreds of years. I'm thinking,
it's about time capitalism died for us.

       Ed Werstein

Days of Reckoning Are Speaking
"We must convince the living that the dead cannot sing" --Amiri Baraka, A Guerilla Handbook

Oh Big Daddy, who plucks peacock feathers in the midday sun
Send forth your androidal missileer
Stop off at the Walla Walla for your plastic bottle
     of shocked water
Sing AVE MARIA on the banks of the Seine & the Passaic rivers
The days of reckoning are speaking.
From the World Bank to the West Bank, from a Serb to a Croat
A Tutu to a Hutu, a Shiite to a Sunni
Hitler to al- Assad & back again to Mussolini
The eyes of the old men seasoned in stews of raw meat
Back & forth      and eye for an eye     to the fall of man
Moses throwing his tablets back to the sky.

In the common atom, rigor mortis speaks with futuristic eyes
Synchronizing brainwaves in Silicon Valley
Drinking primordial soup on the moon
Viral bedbugs descending on the House of Congress
Pissoirs filled with the blood of poets
Sounds of the ManBeast licking his cryptogenic wounds
Sounds of the rivers     creeks     puddles     seas.

Yesterday I watched a white dove fall from the sky
This morning it is raining bones & void promises
Smoke in the window, as on the violets
Weeping ghosts upon the long Trail of Tears
History rich with battered suitcases & one-way tickets
Merciless waves beat their fists upon the shore.

Days of reckoning
Days the clouds have open mouths
Days the clouds begin to speak.


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