Thursday, September 2, 2010

Labor Day


is a block party,
a football game,
one last trip
to the beach.

Overbuilding,
overextension, then:
a panic.
Collapse.

politicians and podiums,
parades,
highways crawling
with Airstreams and boats.

Fading companies,
failing banks.
Union wheels rusting
in a locked-out railway yard.

hot coals and
cold beer,
fireworks glittering
over the lake.

boycotts, troops,
strikebreakers.
Smashed-out windows
and a torch-lit mob.


is the sun going down
on summer,
a national tribute
to the American worker.

is the glow of a burned-out
Pullman car,
a riot quelled
by American bullets.

11 comments:

Terresa said...

I like the dichotomy of this poem.

"is the sun going down
on summer,
a national tribute
to the American worker."

The 2 parts of the poem, the celebration of labor day and the failure of so much labor work well. Oh, the irony.

I enjoyed this poem immensely because:
1) It's timeliness (Labor day is nearly here)

2) It is a poem I would probably never think to write.

3) And is so well done.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Great hard hitting, side-by-side analysis of the holiday. It is really something how our celebration of labor in America has changed little after all these years, but "all things labor" has changed so drastically.

Perfect social commentary poem.

signed...bkm said...

EXCELLENT!! labor day poem...in today world and in this nation... "the glow of a burned-out Pullman car...." brillant...bkm

Jannie Funster said...

Thank you, Blogger.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled comment...

Awesome juxtapostitions, a little too chilling tho. Upon a sedcond read, I stayed away from the italis. :)

Airsteam trailers, I've seen thousands in my days but never have actually darkened the door of one. I assume them to be all teak, brass, and full of portals to Narnian lands?!

:)

xo

Jannie Funster said...

geez, sorry for all the typos. Way too much coffee today so far. :)

xo (agin)

Karen said...

This poem makes great use of one of the devices you do so well - the juxtaposition of opposites. I enjoy reading such poems of yours whole and as separates; they stand as both. Together, they skillfully highlight the dichotomies of situation and life.

By the way, I'm sure you know that WV is a traditional labor state. As a matter of fact, the small town where I lived as a young woman (and where K grew up) was a site of some of the mine wars and the place where Mother Jones was actually imprisoned.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Yes...and my friend Molly lived in the house that served as the prison for Mother Jones years earlier. "Lotsa-Lotsa" ghosts on the loose there, I can tell ye.

Karen said...

Sorry joaquin...I had forgotten Molly, Kay! Molly and Joan -- made us look bad, didn't they? He, he, he.

joaquin carvel said...

terresa - irony, indeed! sadly, it seemed timely for many reasons. thank you, though - i'm glad you liked it. and i share your affinity for poems i wouldn't think to write - they tend to stick with me.

k. - thank you. yes, the more things change, right? i know it's obscure, but part of this came from the panic / pullman strike of 1893-1894 - and labor day becoming a national holiday within a week of its (bloody) conclusion. a century later, totally different economic models - but somehow, strikingly similar economic situations. funny how that happens.

bkm - thank you! like i told k., i geeked out a little with the history, but i hoped it wasn't requisite for the core of the poem. i'm glad it wasn't. :)

jannie - blogger giving you trouble? thanks for pushing through, and for your comment. it is chilling, i guess. (i share your wonderment at the mystery of airstreams - and inclination for too much coffee!)

karen - thank you. i'm not sure why i tend to juxtapose things like that - gemini, maybe? - but i'm glad it works. you must have strong feelings when it comes to unions/labor - i know from your poems you have an innate and profound compassion for miners. but mother jones - you just made me realize how little i know about her. next stop: google.

oh, and k & karen - if i am ever on the east coast, i'm gonna need to get the two of you at a table with a bottle of red wine. i'm just going to listen. :)

Julie said...

How the heck did I miss this one? Was I in Lah Lah land last week? Well, no matter. It is an excellent and very important poem, Joaquin. Thank you for sharing it here and for the reminder we all need. It is timely for any day and any year.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

I'm sure I speak for Karen when I say..."Anytime, my friend." BTW - Karen and I just drink cheap wine. HA!

To Karen: (sorry this is on your dime, Joaquin) You mean, Molly and Joan TRIED to make us look bad! lol