On a Seven-Day Diary

Oh, I got up and went to work
and worked and came back home
and ate and talked and went to sleep.
Then I got up and went to work
and worked and came back home
from work and ate and slept.
Then I got up and went to work
and worked and came back home
and ate and watched a show and slept.
Then I got up and went to work
and worked and came back home
and worked and came back home
and ate steak and went to sleep.
Then I got up and went to work
and worked and came back home
and ate and fucked and went to sleep.
Then it was Saturday, Saturday, Saturday!
Love must be the reason for the week!
We went shopping! I saw clouds!
The children explained everything!
I could talk about the main thing!
What did I drink on Saturday night
that lost the first, best half of Sunday?
The last half wasn't worth this "word."
Then I got up and went to work
and worked and came back home
from work and ate and went to sleep,
refreshed but tired from the weekend.

:: Alan Dugan


From Up North Architecht William Strickland Designs the New Orleans Mint, 1832

After the Capitol, Naval Home

and a Mint in Philadelphia     another Mint

was a zipzap draw-it-in-your-sleep-
and-sign-your-name-er. New Orleans

fortunate      to be favored
with a Strickland plan     perfect

for the rocksoil of Philly where
it would have stood up straight.

For more than a century and a half
Delta tradesmen     had work.

:: Susan Eisenberg, Pioneering: Poems from the Construction Site (1998)



Rumors are getting around,
you’ve heard them. Little things
in the hallway—
one too many jokes
about the company stock,
and the bosses whispering
at the water cooler.
Notice the secretaries,
how little they talk now,
they always know. And the offices upstairs
stay lit all night—and don’t tell me
it means nothing
that the junior executives
who hate each other
are going to lunch together.
It won’t be long. Some lucky bastard
is about to get fired.

:: David Tucker, Late for Work (2006)


Because They Are Not Eight

Ronnie gave up on his folks before
he was ten and signed on two days after
he graduated from high school. His mother
would pour the ashy, treacly scotch
until her head was swarming with rattles
and growls and recrimination. If she wasn’t

strapping Ronnie’s ass in a blind lather
she was trying to get some off him. His father,
Jerome, was gone most every night, cruising
parks, men’s rooms and adult movie houses.
Mornings Ronnie would hear him in the shower,
bathroom steamier than heaven, singing and gasping

sobs by turns. He just started talking to me when
they were shearing us in bunches, clumps
of sandy brown, black, and rusty hair
splotching dingy yellow linoleum. Heaping
in small drifts. Some trippy inane shit he said
made me laugh though I couldn’t tell you why.
My precious mane! My masculine fortitude!
Like some kind of eulogy for Caesar.

I never thought of it as mine anymore
after it was cut. And you always get more.
We bunked together. Closed the taverns in port.
They gave us watch duty on deck beginning
an hour before the next day. Creaming
night waves were ragged claps of wet
voltage teasing your mind into a graceful

stupor. It was steady and soothing and Ronnie
and me would unwind. Nothing mattered
to him I think. The way a lost balloon
meanders and bobs. Tangles and glides. Ronnie
asked me why sometimes sailors are called gobs.
I said he should ask the captain. He cradled
my neck, hooking his lips into mine.

I caught him with a rabbit punch and he yelped
and bayed. Shaking back to his feet with raucous
guffaws he kissed me again with blood in his
mouth. I spat into the hollow of his chest and cried
some, punching his shoulders and arms. I said,
“It’s okay for you first,” and he got in after three

fingers and rubbed my belly whispering, singing
Sinatra (Summer Wind) and I was frail and genuine
suddenly under hushy symphony of leaking light
thinking of my grandma’s riddle: Why are the seven
stars no more than seven? I don’t care if he wakes me

for a slip trip ‘cause I get my chance at bat as often
as I like. Ronnie can turn cook’s duty for three
hundred guys into a fucking privilege. Swabbing
toilets a jokey tango for the deranged. Sometimes
he just climbs into my bunk and tells me gags
‘til we fall asleep. I do not ask God why

He brought me Ronnie. Prince of tickles
in a kingdom of the damaged and ravenous.
Doctor for the annihilated bounce. I heard
once in church deserving has nothing
to do with grace. And I figure it’s better
not to raise the question.

:: Christopher Soden, in Still Blue: More Writing by (for or about) Working-Class Queers


Condition of the Working Classes: 1970

You United States, frightened by dreams of Guatemala,

building houses with eight-mile-long wings to imprison the Cubans,
eating a bread made of the sound of sunken buffalo bones,
drinking water turned dark by the shadow of Negroes.
You remember things seen when you were still able to speak—
white wings lying in a field.
And when you try to pass a bill,
long boards fly up, suddenly,
in Nevada,
in ghost towns.

You wave your insubstantial food timidly in the damp air.
You long to return to the shell.
Even at the start Chicago was a place where the cobblestones
got up and flew around at night,
and anarchists fainted as they read The Decline and Fall.
The ground is soaked with water they used to boil dogs.

Your sons dream they have been lost in kinky hair,
no one can find them,
neighbors walk shoulder to shoulder for three days,
but your sons are lost in the immense forest.

And the harsh deer drop,
the businessmen climb into their F-4s,
the chocks are knocked out,
the F-4 shoots off the deck,
          trailing smoke,
dipping slightly,
          as if haunted by the center of the ocean,
then pulling up again, as Locke said it would.

Our spirit is in the baseball rising into the light

So the crippled ships go out into the deep,
sexual orchids fly out to meet the rain,
          the singer sings from deep in his chest,
memory stops,
          black threads string out in the wind,
the eyes of the nation go blind.

The building across the street suddenly explodes,
wild horses run through the long hair on the ground floor.
Cripple Creek’s survivors peer out from an upper-story window,
          blood pours from their ears,
the Sioux dead sleep all night in the rain troughs on the Treasury

The moonlight crouches over the teenager’s body thrown from a car

The weeping child like a fish thrown from the herring block
the black-nosed Avenger leaping off the deck

Women who hear the cry of small animals in their furs
and drive their cars at a hundred miles an hour into trees

:: Robert Bly, in Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life


Condition of the Working Classes: 1960

There are bricks trapped in thousands of pale homes,

And pale children who in time will vote Republican,
Who sleep at night with black stones beneath their pillows;
I have seen cars ascending into the heavens,
Where their fenders turn slowly to drifting clouds;
Driving down the streets, we see the faces of children
Change suddenly into the doors of aircraft factories,
That are far off the street, behind grass, with a blue door;
And the doors change at night into small holes in paper
Behind which the blue sky is seen; and the sky changes
          to decks of cards
Thrown down on a cardtable at midnight, and locked
          away in boxes,
And the paper boxes change to chunks of pine standing
          beneath axles
In lazy garages where the wooden floors are stained with oil,
And the extricated axles change to missiles with warheads
Climbing up, and the stages changes into aisles of a church,
And the church-doors change into the faces of children
          standing beside the new trees.

:: Robert Bly, in Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life


Right Now

you're out in a village in the Berkshires
and your waiter is serving your steak.
You're on your third Sombrero and
one of the engineers is telling a joke.

I'm home with the TV news on so everythin
will seem normal. I've invited Marcie over for a beer.
It already seems odd to have done it.

Now you're cutting the steak. It is thick and rare
and the boss is paying for it. You laugh.
This is the life! You're glad you smoked that joint.
You see two lovers in the corner
and try not to miss me and spoil it.

I drink Lites with Marcie; we talk about teaching.
She says how nice I'm still with my lover.
She goes home and I spread the newspaper out
on your side of the bed and drink cold tea.

You're going into the lounge for a brandy
with the detail man. The guys make jokes
about the location of your room.
I lay two pillows alongside me in bed.

:: Jane Barnes, Extremes (Blue Giant Press, 1981)