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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What I wouldn't give
to climb up the side of my uncle's truck again
on a hot summer wheat-harvest day
to lean over the side board
and let the combine hopper
pour its payload
through my spread fingers.
To take a kernel into my mouth
and bite into it like dad
to test for moisture,
to know we had the perfect day,
but still worry about finishing
before the evening storms
that always hurry after heat like this.
To cart jugs of iced tea and Dixie cups
from house to field for the men
and to be a little part
of that great harvest scene again.
Or to watch grandpa on a Saturday afternoon
small ax in hand,
select the chickens for Sunday dinner,
to help grandma pluck on the porch,
It's not just the being ten and innocent again.
It's to know again where things come from,
that someone's grandma fed the chickens I eat,
that a real human being touched the wheat
in my bread,
to know the name of the steer
whose meat is in my freezer.
To be able to think once more that vegetarians
are a little strange.
To have never heard the word agribusiness.
What I wouldn't give to be back home again.
The Next Feast
And to think, if circumstances
had been different, if we had walked
a little farther North or South,
or follow the sunlight in reverse --
and to think that if every moment
we live could be catalogued
instead of disappearing into
the deep fog of our memory
or if peace was as visible
as that special feast we spread
for those we invite to our table
and we would offer each other
the first turn
at choosing what we want
and out of decorum we might
choose not the best piece of meat
or several serving spoons
of the yellow squash -- but just enough
to satisfy our hunger with
the assurance that the occasion
will repeat -- and we would turn
our backs and see those behind
us with fair amounts of food
and we would sit around the table
and argue until our plates were empty
and seeing how the night descends
around us and tomorrow is
another day we would wish each other
not only a good night but would
make sure we all knew where
the next feast was coming from.
Midnight Shift at the Glass-Fiber Factory
Night is a blessing
The day's heat weakened, breezes through open windows
In the summer everybody wants the midnight shift
Some machines bake raw fiber into spongy golden tubes
As they come out of the oven, you throw them into the trimmer
The spray coater splays a mist of rubber and tar across each piece
Pipe insulation, you suppose
The foil coater layers shiny foil onto thick sheets of fiber with glue
The sheets curl up on long metal bars, ready for the wrappers
Some nights through the skylights high above a few stars are visible
Once you even saw the moon, full and aching
You work the night away, piling up rolls, filling boxes, loading carts
At dawn the skylights bloom with light
Glass fiber dust, invisible through the long night,
Dances and glitters in the air everywhere,
Like sunlight itself, like golden death
Misplaced raindrop evaporating from a window pane
during the long dusk of youth. The soul
was once conceived of as a flame, the Pentecostal fire,
a part of you walking down the street burning
with a purposeful light
thinking about how you would say anything for a job.
The wait for government money means leaning on stunt glass,
means a means to a means. Can't understand dehumanized
when you are, then you aren't.
One year unemployed -- he left the last job buttoned down, or up,
tied and shoe-shined. Today, he collects the mail ravenously
barefoot. The mirror is too heavy for the wall
when he needs to know how others see him
he kneels before it on the floor and tries his best
to embody the flattest reflection.
"Teachers, nurses, lawyers, do something
useful late in life to give back," says
a new elderly Trader Joe's clerk,
grateful for the health insurance
"Not your Daddy's retirement!"
for people now NPR tells me.
"You didn't know my Daddy!"
I tell the radio.
A woman left alone standing
in a field of stones is allowed . . .
"You know that horse in Animal Farm"
I ask the radio, "with the delayed retirement?"
They retired him in the end
radio says, smelling glue.
I'm not allowed anywhere to remember
Aint Matt, born in slavery, working
as a maid beyond her eighties.
My Daddy coughed american beauty roses
into a kleenex, into cans, favored red bandannas.
One of the lucky ones who brought in
the unions and pensions and
stopped to die hard and scarred.
I hear whining about the children
how they don't have a chance --
like that's going to help them beyond
"so you think you can dance" and the lottery
No take this bouquet and eat it -- Diva
Devo, Devil, Me, I do this.
A sentence without a period . . .
Now my Mama? Don't ask me about my Mama.
She's employed on the other side.
In the Tiny Hours
In the tiny hours of the morning
Long before the sun casts its
Pre-dawn gray and the east
Begins to light
You feel the oneness of us all
You hurt for the people who
Really are brothers and sisters
The people and families of Boston
And the people and families, victims
Of random, meaningless gun violence
Every damn day
The kids lost every day in drive-bys
And the men and women who
Try so hard to hold it all together
The families in the ramen noodles and
Baloney and peanut butter plans with
Hamburger helper for a treat
The men and women scared of
Losing home -- not just a damn house
Don't you know, can't you see
But home, the only home
Their kids ever knew
And you hurt in the tiny hours
For the people who no longer
Can make ends meet
And you know a much bigger
Our people are sick of hurtin' and losin'
While those who really can
Make things happen
Sleep through the night
Without a thought to us
Lots and lots to do
Woody said it right in a different
But same kind of time
This land belongs to you and me.
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