Tuesday, October 06, 2009

toledo blues

my mother
and stepfather johnny stemple
used to take me & my older brother
over to aunt sabina's place
a storefront downstairs & her apartment up
to visit
as everyone called it then
where they would sit and talk
maybe over a few copies of the daily worker
spread out on the table
and the shiny black hair of sabina
her dark roma eyes dancing across the table
right to me
and my mother's equally dark hair & eyes
answering dramatically in tempo with everyone

and then johnny stemple would tell
the story of the great united auto workers
sit-down strike at willys overland jeep plant
and how the u.a.w. was born
and how all the radical unionists were fired by 1952

and now how johnny
already in his forties
was unloading crates of tomatoes
at the hunt ketchup plant
for 90 cents an hour
and how the blacklist kept him on the run

though there was still time
to teach me
to throw a baseball
out in front of the peeling frame house
on moore street

at sabina's one saturday
we all piled into johnny's '46 de soto
and went to a black church
packed with wailing women and men
preachers sweating
righteous indignation
rising above a lone photo
of a black fourteen-year-old boy
that the world would come to know
as emmett till

--- e b bortz


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading this. It reminds me a lot of a Phil Levine poem.

e b bortz said...

thank you.

Anonymous said...

Dad true story? Good flow...

e b bortz said...

true story...1955...with love, dad