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 Page: Profile: Poetry   Total Views: 16,459,982  

Poem Specs

VxPoem ID: 46154


Posted: September 13th. 2015 3:39:15 AM

Views: 798

Blue Collar Eulogy

by darkling

Age Group: Adult

Well, here it is again, almost the anniversary of of the events that lead me to write this piece. This is my birth poem. Before writing it I referred to myself as 'someone who writes poetry'. If I had never chosen to read it at an outdoor open on a warm September night in 1990 I might have remained that someone.
I was born as a 'performance poet' in 1990 at an open on a grassy knoll at the south end of Riverside's Main Street pedestrian mall. There was a low circular wall and when the spirit moved you and you were fast enough you got up and said your said. The attendees were militant homosexuals, angry lesbians, street people, a lot of students, a few normies (!) like me and a few profs and instructors. After a couple of false starts, I finally made it into the circle's center. I felt like I was moving through a dream. I was determined not to let the noise bother me. I turned my internal volume up. The crowd quieted and started to settle during the first stanza. By the time I went into the second stanza the low level of coversational buzz vanished and I felt each listener as he/she linked to me. I had found my 'Voice'. I am the only sound, the only animate being that exists. I realize that i absolutely own this crowd. i feel the energy spin up around me, and then I am linked up and I can feel the primal forces moving up my legs from the ground, amplifying as it projects from me, burying my audience in energy which their eyes reflect back at me. I reach the climax of the piece, I am panting, dripping sweat and my legs are shaking. There is total silence for what seems an eternity. Oh sh*t! I think. Did I imagine all that? ***! What was I thinking, coming out here? When I start to vacate the circle its like a connection is broken. Suddenly there is this spontaneous shriek from the crowd. Cheers. Wild applause. People standing. In addition to the sweating and shaking I realize I am crying. That is the moment that I stopped describing myself as 'someone who writes poetry' and started calling myself 'Poet'.

(an open letter to Ralph)

The sky was so incredibly blue
On the day after you died
Soft and deep
It threatened to pick me up
Pull me up
If I looked at it too long
Leaving me hanging there
Suspended above the treetops
And telephone lines
Caught in between yesterday and today
In a place where your eyes are still clear
And your heart slams like a jackhammer
In your chest
While you laugh about a close call
You had on your way home

So here I am
65, 000 pounds of concrete and steel
Roaring down State Highway 79
At sixty-five plus miles an hour
On the verge of a transcendental experience

I keep seeing flashes of your cynical smile
Photo memories of knowing you
Would you have known
That it has been almost exactly a year
Since I first rolled onto this jobsite?
I had no idea then of who you were
Or how knowing you would teach me
Just how tenuous a grasp
Each of us has on this moment

Ralph, were you aware of this link?
The bond that can't be explained
Only acknowledged
It commands that I stop this truck
Pull over! Write this, now!
But blue-collar keeps on going
Hell, Ralph
One thing we both knew
Blue-collar got a job to do

I roll onto the jobsite
Raising a cloud of dust
That lingers like a gritty halo
Around my machine

Do you remember that slow pour
Over in Area One?
When I told you about the Whiteboy Blues?
God, did you laugh
How many months since we stood in the dark
Sky lit by a dreamfire moon and the stars
Like the eyes of a million spiders
Skittering from horizon to horizon
What did we say that night
As the trucks howled past
Engines screaming painfully
At the deaf ears of the moon
Load after load
Tires tearing at the ground
Raising up a red cloud
That clawed its way slowly south
Like the frightened ghost
Of a crippled dog

I bitched about my job
You bitched about yours
Then each of us bitched about the other
I think we both heard
What was really being said

"Jesus, Charlie, I love this sh*t!"

"I hear ya, Ralph."

"There's like this little boy inside me, Charlie
and he live for this . . . yeah, he love the noise and dirt
and hangin' wit' the big boys.
He like gettin' respect for a job well done,
He need that."

"Check this out, Ralph,
like, you know how a new pair
of work boots smells?"

"I know just what you sayin', Charlie."

"Okay . . . how about the way
those boots grip your feet
and, like
anchor you to the ground
until for a moment it feels like you're here forever . . ."

"Yeah, Charlie . . . and don't forget
how that leather squeak when you walk
how it talk to you
when you draggin' yourself off the site
at day's end
Then there's the way a hammer in yo' toolbelt
slap yo' ass when you hump up a ladder
when you almos' to the top
another man reach down to give you a hand up
and from the point of his chin
a drop of sweat fall, hittin' you
in the corner of an eye and for one blind moment . . .
. . . brothers . . ."

Well, my friend
You never knew I was a poet
And truly
You probably wouldn't have understood
Had I told you
Even so, there was something

Ralph, I guess men like us
Don't quote verse or paint pictures
But this job
This job is our monument
Our Cheops, our Tenochtitlan

The sky was so incredibly blue
On the day after you died
Soft and deep
It threatened to pick me up
Pull me up
And leave me hanging there

I don't pretend to know
Where you are off to
But if they ask you
What you did with your life
I can hear you saying

"I never wrote a song, but I sang one.
I sang because I built things.
I took mud and stone and sweat
and I built things . . . and I loved it."

Hell, Ralph
If I hadn't met you
I may never have remembered
The part of me that loves it, too

Rest in peace, Bro',
I'll see ya on the next big one

30 august, 1990
©1990 chas altvater

Author's Location: Moreno Valley, California
More Poems: darkling has posted 35 additional poems- View them?
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