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 only a sampling from the magazine. Subscriptions are $15.00 yearly, or $7.00 for a single issue. Subscribe using the on-line link or send checks to Partisan Press P.O. 11417 Norfolk, VA 23517.
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At Your Fingertips
Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost,
Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host.
How the demons chuckle and yell
Cutting his hands off down in Hell. -- Vachel Lindsay
I watch her,
tap, tap, tap . . .
the syncopation of fingers,
thumbs, her face down, laser
gaze fixed in the Blackberry screen,
tap-at-a-tap-tap . . .
rush-hour's squeeze of passengers
of no distraction, a jungle of blue ear buds
and white wired deafened
to the screech of steel on steel.
I wonder if she knows of coltan --
the tantalum-rich ore necessary
to the firing of capacitors
behind her magic screen and
without which her world is
no more than dancing snowflakes.
Can she hear the Ituri rain forest
falling to the hack of machetes, its eko trees
stripped of bark perfect for sluicing?
Can she picture the bombed-out craters
of streambeds where coveted
coltan-rich muck is scooped by
gouging fingers a pail at a time,
panned like gold by profit-hungry hands,
or the slaughter of lowland Kahuzi-Biega
gorillas for bush meat and the okapi
fleeing their habitat in terror?
What, I wonder, might she think of the takeover
of the Mbuti tribal meeting grounds and of
Mama Doudou's brothel at the mining camp,
the rake for her girls in kilos of coltan,
the bread she bakes sold at black-market rates,
the antibiotics for the sofisi pandemic
worth a soup can of the black mud per dose? What if
she knew that it all started with
King Leopold's plunder of rubber, ivory,
gold and tin -- the noses, ears,
fingertips, hands of Congolese
who failed daily quota lopped
and left to rot for a hundred years?
Krikor N. Der Hohannesian
Rain on a Barn South of Tawas
It may be as close as an old man in Michigan
comes to the sound of the sea. Call it thunder
if you want, but it's not thunder, not at all.
It's more like the rush of semis on a freeway
somewhere between Bay City and Flint,
the road a son will take when he learns,
sometime around the last taste of a strap,
that the life he was born to is nothing
at all like a life he'd ever bother to live.
There's an anger in it, a tin-edged constancy
that has no rhythm, quite, something more
like white noise that still won't let you sleep.
Think of some man, needing to get a crop in,
but the fields are sop, so he's trying to find
something to fix, something to keep his hands
working, something to weld, something to pound,
something to wrap his calloused palms around
that might do less damage than a lead-rope
knotted and tossed over the limb of a tree.
If you ever decide to lose your years
by working this land, you might think again
about the barn you build, or roofing it with tin.
Farmer's Market on Route 46
No habla Espaņol
My talents lie in the heart not the brain
But I can say Buenos dias
Me llama Juan
I can share a warm smile and a handshake
They are my comrades
I don't care what their papers say
Laws don't make things right
It's all Indian land as far as I'm concerned
And the sooner we get together the better
I am glad to see them and they are glad to see me
The men constantly fill the overcrowded racks
In with the good produce out with the bad
They work with utmost diligent speed
The women are constantly checking out at the registers
They speak much more English
I draw a funny face on a credit slip
It makes the seņoritas laugh
Did you get Labor Day off, I inquire?
"Yes" she says with a relieved smile.
"No" the smile fades away
Huelga, Huelga, I say softly
The smile comes back, a glint of hope in her eyes
At night a white van comes for them all
They stand in line and punch out in a card
Then they are whisked away to the slums of Paterson
I wonder about many things
They work so hard, so long
If only I was fluent in Spanish
Adam Smith's Invisible Hand Doesn't Carry Water
In overcrowded unnatural cities
and on the backroads of rural areas
we live and then in droves
we almost hairless bipeds
die . . . as canon fodder and
slave labor and organ donors
99% of us
We die of back flowing sewerage
and clogged philosophy,
for lack of potable water,
living on trickle-down, tinkle-down
because neither the philosophy
nor the pipes can hold water.
That invisible hand of Adam Smith
doesn't do plumbing repair
except for the 1%
and certainly cannot carry philosophy.
It is of no use to us.
We Are The Public Workers Of New York City
Ever notice how in every crisis
the rich, who call us "union thugs"
and "freeloaders" for being public workers
with our pensions, grow silent?
Whether it is the present pat on the back,
or the regular witchhunting
during normal times, the value
of our work goes unacknowledged.
Hurricane Sandy uproots trees
Massive waves surge over barricades
built by the city like a juggernaut.
The mayor praises public workers
he has demonized his entire term
in this time of trouble
for our city.
Transit crews work overtime to repair
the subways flooded due to global warming.
Health workers work to treat
the wounded and the homeless.
The City needs money for public healthcare,
schools and mass transit.
We don't need more tax cuts for the rich
in their gated communities.
We need money for infrastructure
so disasters like Sandy won't happen again.
They call us "thugs" and "freeloaders"
for being public workers, who still have benefits,
but we know who repairs the roads and sewers
and hospitals and schools,
who cares for the sick
and the poor, in the neighborhoods
where the rich
cannot be found,
we know who the real freeloaders are
with their production for profit agenda.
We make this city run, despite hurricanes,
snowstorms and terrorist attacks.
Cutbacks in social services by this mayor
for working people are another kind of disaster.
Without our labor, the wheels of this city
do not turn.
We are the public workers of New York City.
Watch us work. Watch us rise
to the occasion of Hurricane Sandy,
just as we did during the difficult months
Old Age in America
Once young, exposed to penury
in the Capitalist Illusion
we breathed it all in like dolts --
and still the dream gushed
fountains of glorious wealth
that made us laugh and run for it
Yet our dream died young
once we realized what it was --
just a far-off mirage
offering castles in Spain
barefoot virgins dancing
along paths of strewn rose petals
(ah, the fantasies of a young man)
but the glitter of gold and gems --
the images of beauty and fame
(ah, what else does a woman dream?)
now all that's left for us
are dim old eyes, wrinkled hands
and the glint and glitter
(faded) that left us a dead dream
Nights now, I tote up my own losses
with life's nagging aches and pains
surrounded by dead illusions
What else is left to dream?
The night passes in its bitterness
lacking a full moon and stars
and those lovely gold flowers
that greeted us in the Spring
Yet, instead of the glitz
we're left with turned-out pockets
and a deep sense of guilt
as if we had betrayed the dream
Yet the dream betrayed us --
with a lying politico's lips
Now, we go naked in the lurch
bankrupt, squeezed-out, impotent.
When I rule the world
which is to say when we rule the world
all of us together
there will be less to pray for
and churches will be converted
to museums and art galleries
with choir loft apartments overlooking
neo-naves of public discourse
pews rearranged to facilitate conversation.
When I rule the world
which is to say when we rule the world
all of us minus those greedy few
that rule us now
battleships will be redeployed
some reflagged as cruise ships
their guns and armor reformed
to recreational uses.
Others will be anchored in harbors
and each become an oceanfront neighborhood
with promenades lined with flowerpots
and libraries where the admirals
once slept their battle dreams.
When we rule the world
all of us together
children will grow up healthy
because doctors will work uninfected
by corporate interests
and the games and laughter of children
will reveal their strong bodies
and straight teeth.
Children will grow up loved
and they will all grow up
and none of them will grow up
to be soldiers.
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