Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sue Doro: Blue Collar Goodbyes

Sue Doro was a machinist for the Milwaukee Road Railway and, before that, for Allis Chalmers Tractor in Milwaukee.  

Her book Blue Collar Goodbyes is a collection of poetry drawn from her experience working lathes and big machines in the Rust Belt.

These are blue collar poems by a blue collar writer.  No academic finery here.  No arch irony.  She has something to say and she says it.  

I like that.

I especially like this one:

Red Dust

Davey was a clerk at the railroad
sixteen years union seniority gaining him
a seat outside the bathroom
in the foreman's office
behind a desk smokestacked high with papers

Only Native American in the wheel shop
he tried to bury his identity
for survival in white territory

Became more christian than the christians
to ward off totem pole humor

Carried his bible around for protection
when stepping out into the shop

Just in case he was confronted
with the booming noise of brass hammers
drumming a dubious "tom-tom" beat
on the sides of steel barrels

At least they wouldn't dare a racist joke to his face
when confronted with a sign of the crucifix and
"aw, it's somethin' to do" the guys would say
when I'd ask about intent

Then one afternoon alone together in the office
Davey confided with a conspiratory wink
that he continued to honor his mother's religion
of wind rain and sun in the event
the white man's god fell through

Recounted tales of his childhood on the reservation
his real name Red Dust
his land in northern Wisconsin
settling over graves of friends and relatives
where he returns to hunt with his sons
each Thanksgiving weekend

And the last days before the railroad shut down
saw his bible lying on the desk
gathering dust
closed over a blood-red beaded bookmark
Blue Collar Goodbyes was published in 1992 by Papier-Mache Press.  It seemed to be out of print, so I bought a used copy from amazon.  Later I found this link, which might still work if you want a brand new copy.

If you're interested in other tradespeople writing poetry, I've got some suggestions in this post called Poets Pounding Nails.

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