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've seen the ranch hands unroll snow fence early
along Interstate 80, a highway for the wind mainly
in September, vacationers having driven on
to Vegas or Tucson. Board-gloved, thick-jacketed,
breathing vapor, the men use the fence to shore up
barbed wire adequate to keep cattle in pasture in summer,
but not to keep out winter snowdrifts that can drown calves.
The season of living off stored feed approaches.
The fencing's ornery. Try to pry a nail from a board
without a hammer. It's as unlikely for a ranch hand to admit: a little cold today. Good fences, good neighbors,
comparisons end. New England seems quaint to me now,
on my way to somewhere else, always drifting too.
When corn shocks are paler than
weathered sand and pumpkins cured ripe.
When the grass with morning dew
is spiked by still more heavy frost,
fill the tub this time with apples, peeled.
Share wide pulls with the paddle spoon.
Preserving charcoal's outdoor heat.
Smelling sweet spice in smoky air.
Forget last year's stench of scalded hair.
Kitchen slick with sausage grease.
Your numbing fingers hoisting flesh.
The piercing scream of hogs.
Aware at last, when sequestered
from the rest, the concern
behind our rendering process.
Restored to spare all fall holidays.
Meat rolls down the line.
Workers trim, sort, package.
More meat rolls down the line.
Animals must die.
Children must be born.
Meat rolls down the line.
A catchy jingle. The angle of coin.
Meat rolls down the line.
Come hell or high water,
our stores need their stock.
Meat rolls down the line.
Red meat, white meat, human flesh;
so much product required
for meat to roll down the line.
Life in a Company Town
This place eats your bones
until you wear the print of it.
You disappear into sidewalks,
seep through every structure,
drown in forms,
the silly maelstrom
of smothering bureaucracy.
Everything's for sale here,
the real estate's in flux.
Buildings stand half-finished,
others limp in ripe decay.
Each window is a bloodshot eye,
where a worker stands waiting for orders,
The sky over-arches,
memoranda painted wild with blue
and its natural opponent,
Birds skate the clouds
in mad disarray,
marking the day and the hour.
And you're just a flimsy time sheet.
Your eyes are hours worked,
your hands are benefit time,
your mind is jury duty,
bereavement, family leave.
And your heart
is time marked as absent.
The team leader and supervisor
thought we should work as hard
as they thought they did.
We were temporary labor.
If we didn't,
we were walked out
before the next shift was over.
I made it through and got my "papers"
I would get benefits and higher pay.
I was now a machine operator
with more rights than before
though I felt I was required to do more
I also checked and moved all the components to the floor.
I watched them walk around the plant
in the same small group that walked out temps
then retreat to their offices to strategize and plan.
Their results were not enough.
They were replaced and transferred,
and their pay stayed the same,
as if they were not fully to blame.
It did not seem the same to us.
The Blind Canyons of Computer Despair
So you're the natives
and it's the invaders or
you're the invaders and it's the
finally totally desperately pissed off
you're working at home
at your keyboard and if there's tech
support you're not getting it and
there's a sheer cliff at your fall and
shotguns in your kidney or
it's the Indians and cowboys and
everybody's got guns longer than your
attention span AND that tall tree with
a panther in it or  & nbsp; who are you?
You're the hungry rustler and it's the sheriff with
the whole damned town deputized and
you're alone except for those four and now
skittish fatted cows and your crying baby
not back at the cabin but
on your hip  : you with no shoes, no
underpants and the hair from hell
with a lame horse or is that a brain
running from the one-eyed skunk who
aims to take you out of this job
and you're fighting to care as much
as you have to and they want the
password and they want seven and we've
been in the wilderness a long long time.
Cops and Robbers
Back in the days of Dragnet,
when we played Cops and Robbers,
the toughest kids were the cops,
the rest of us grabbed by our shirt collars
lifted off our feet, our terrified faces
scorched with dragon breath,
and told we were robbers.
Our role: to be chased, knocked down,
tossed into "jails," and guarded
by the laziest of the rocks: almost
as interested in scarfing stolen
candy bars, as in administering armlocks
to make us confess to every crime
they couldn't wait to commit.
It's still the same, but now the games
are deadly: unarmed and pleading-
for-breath Black men beaten, shot,
throats crushed by tough-guy cops,
enjoying the game too much.
The Meaning of Grandfather's Cane Fascism is the stick they give you when capitalism runs out of carrots. -- Anonymous
I had some odd thoughts after finishing
that book by Thorsten Veblen. Was "fishing"
for connections. That "pole" is a symbol,
I learned. And the Cane, the hunting rifle,
And the excess capital that allows
For waste in exchange for pleasure.
Appeared on all my T.V. channels.
The police had killed another Black Man.
Note my need to use the word "another."
I picked up my grandfather's wooden Cane.
And it was not a conscious decision
on my part; was something that just happened.
I thought about its aesthetic, and how vain
The bourgeois business man of yesterday
Must have been, to announce that he would spend,
To all who passed him, his money that way,
when he suffered no limp, no injury.
100 years ago his legs were good.
He didn't need the help.
It was heavy
The Cane had a brass ball at the top end.
The wooden point was speckled with some mud,
Still. Un-cleaned. This was the stain of the past.
I realized this Cane could kill a man.
Recall the confederate in Congress?
The one that "Caned" the Abolitionist?
They carried these things. And it was a sign.
These owners don't need their Canes anymore.
They have a system now for their murder.
The rich man's violence goes unreported.
In this country, when the ventriloquist
Puts on a bad act, they blame the dummy.
The voice has the Cane; the dummy, the gun;
The speaker, a top hat; and the dummy,
A riot helmet; the speaker's the one
With the tuxedo at the Country Club.
The dummy just uses a Billy Club.
And no. You don't have to be a Marxist
To get it, I mean. You know what is real.
It makes me think about that heavy cane.
The one that could bust up a poor man's skull.
At a man's side. Like a cowboy's pistol.
I don't know what the philosophers say
About the Cane. Is it semantics?
I think it was more than aesthetic.
They don't need them anymore, anyway.
They commit assault by proxy today.
The Assault Rifle Decal
The assault rifle decal
in the rear window
of the cab of the pickup
tells me the driver is not
someone to fuck with.
He's an American patriot
ready to kill to protect
his rights because he knows
that's what they meant
when they drafted the
to the Constitution.
Every patriotic American
needs an assault rifle
to assert his rights
and if now and then
an American uses
an assault rifle to kill
innocent people, that's
the price of freedom,
so don't fuck with him
or maybe he'll get angry
and lose his temper
and fire his assault rifle
and kill you. It's the
price of his freedom
you've paid. So fuck
your freedom to enjoy
life and liberty because
he's the patriot, not you
Matthew J. Spireng
Time Was Always Gonna Come
This time was always gonna come
Every nation with its history must reckon
Hatred of the Other has always been part of public policy
Entire economy of the South rested on slavery
Gold in Georgia, growing agriculture and
Jackson brought the Trail of Tears
The richest land stolen by force of genocide and children's fears
Of course racism and fascism bubbles up every generation
Too many eschewed the truth, liked the lies in our nation
This KKK hate visceral as shouted spittle on a whiskered chin
The hanging tree still standing in its own sin
The slave auction block still in town squares
Next to Confederate statues
Proclaiming cruelty as a southern value
The GOP rode race to southern control
But we are on our way to breaking that woeful hold
Time for racial healing through real accountability
Truth telling in painful, awful accuracy
A rooting out of hatred as a human value
And a demand for justice and peace anew.
A New Day
You think election's a victory.
And yes, for the moment
we've won but
don't celebrate delusion
'cause we're a long, long way from done.
Corporate democrats voted in
cursing those who brought 'em
we've still got to fight them
from autumn to autumn
We'll fight them for the climate
We'll fight them for our health
We'll fight them to topple
the dictatorship of wealth
We'll fight them for jobs
with livable pay
We'll fight racist cops
by night and by day
We'll fight them for justice
all of us or none
We'll fight to end war
and when we are done
We'll celebrate freedom
our banner unfurled
and together move on
to create a just world
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