Blue Collar RSS

Blue Collar

18 April, 2015: Blue Collar


by Jeanne Bryner
Blue Collar
                                              You must change your life.
We know, we surely must know
there are moments before explosions,
before any body count, when breaking
windows and screaming might have helped.
Serious bargaining over the old contract:
human dignity and ruling by fear.
No simple answers exist,
but when they tell you, They got greedy;
see, now it’s gone, it’s all gone.
What they really mean is, it’s OK
to let some furnaces go cold,
some children go hungry.
Did your teachers ever make you memorize
the names of coal strikes? steel leaders?
tell you the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company?
the chicken factory in Hamlet, NC?
Learn the Gettysburg Address,
the Pledge of Allegiance,
the Preamble to the Constitution;
study hard, and you may move up, they said.
But the rules are the rules,
justice doesn’t wear a flannel shirt.
Without the working class,
what is America? What is America?
Where are the great studies on buried miners,
burned women, displaced steel workers,
lost towns gutted like deer,
people left to choose between the river and the sky?
“Blue Collar” by Jeanne Bryner from Blind Horse. Bottom Dog Press, 1999. Used by permission of the author.
Jeanne Bryner is a registered nurse whose books include Breathless; Blind Horse: Poems; Eclipse: Stories; Tenderly Lift Me: Nurses Honored, Celebrated and Remembered; The Wedding of Miss Meredith Mouse; No Matter How Many Windows; Smoke: Poem; and Early Farming Woman. Winner of a Tillie Olsen Award and an American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award, she teaches writing workshops in schools, universities, community centers, cancer support groups and assisted living facilities and has received fellowships from Bucknell University, the Ohio Arts Council, and Vermont Studio Center. She lives with her husband in Newton Falls.


Nostalgia is a powerful emotion.

List as many things you can think of that no longer exist in your world that once did (manual typewriter, push lawnmower, correction tape, landline, Betsy Wetsy, particular TV shows, characters, windup alarm clock….). Write a poem about them, titled “Ubi Sunt.”
Jim Rehlender
"Bless the child of the working man, she knows too soon who she is. And bless the hands of the working man. He knows his soul is his.": from "It Goes Like it Goes", Norma Rae. Look at all the wondrous monuments, cathedrals, and structures throughout the world and consider who actually fleshed out the designs. One of the most brilliant minds I ever knew was a trouble shooter in the Bell System. His grasp of complex switching systems and network architecture equaled the equipment he mastered, and he wore very plain clothes and carried a battered old lunch box. What he didn't have was an ego and a predatory nature. There are many such incredible individuals, both men and women, that will never be known to history.
4/18/2015 10:51:52 PM

JJ Stickney
Thank you for this very powerful poem
4/18/2015 8:06:44 AM

READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.