Monday, December 24, 2007

carson street shuffle, pittsburgh

looks like what was once
a walnut street pre-gentrified high
when i was on second shift
most every night we dropped in
for a pitcher & chess
sometimes a joint in the little alley
off ivy street
and then
the animated talk & hand gestures
as my opponent castled
i looked away
wondering how i could just
walk away
blow this grimy town
grow my hair down to my ass
find a new way to survive
a war-weary country
& hardhats that embarrassed
even the company stooges

and if it was friday night
the sidewalks overflowed
into the streets
and every few feet
an impending draftee
would bump into you
stoned or drunk
and you’d see
the fuck-it attitude
or fear on his face
that a ride to canada
could fix

there were the broken old men
who said the kids had
no work ethic
and that the country was
going to hell
they were right about the hell
but missed
the civics lessons that were never taught
about who owns what and why
and who stole whose land

i wouldn’t say all this
if it didn’t happen
or thought it wouldn’t
happen again

--- e b bortz

(published in, Jan 26, 2011)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

coal veins of jock yablonski

are still moving up the ohio
six heaping barges pushed upstream
maybe mined near bellaire ohio
making their way to the cheswick power station
on the allegheny

it was one of those sticky hot august days
in ‘69
as jock mounted a makeshift stage
in the middle of a beat-up football field
in bellaire
to speak to a couple hundred miners
and their families
about the most radical of all notions
in these parts
union democracy

the sweat poured down his face
across a hoarse open throat
and slumping tie
and every once in a while
a pointing finger came at us
making sure we heard the cry
of the thousands who came
and died before us

gk repeated it like a mantra
that this was only the beginning
the miners were just awakening
from the long terror of the thugs
and that jock
was the catalyst messenger
the brother from the early dark cio 30s
when solidarity wasn’t just a word
or a whisper
but a way of life

the union election was stolen
jock & his family were murdered new year’s eve in ‘69
a few thugs went to prison
miners for democracy wept
& carried on

after years
of continuous mining machines
mountain-top removal
black lung tens of thousands
a coal miners’ diaspora
spreading broken bodies
like polluted chewed-up forests & streams
climate havoc
foreign oil wars

lives and dies in the veins
of jock yablonski

--- e b bortz

Friday, December 21, 2007

twenty minutes and eight arms full

of dress shirts
surreptitiously walk past starbucks
i’ve never been here before
but know there’s gotta be
a wash & starch drop-off nearby
for the corporate courtrooms
land speculator trysts
movin & shakin down
every loose financial instrument
not bolted down

the front page of the daily
has three burly policemen
clubbing down & holding
head & arms
a housing demolition protestor
new orleans drips blood on the street

starched shirts missing

--- e b bortz