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Life Arts

labor aristocracy

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sometimes hearing
the worst ideas
are the best lesson
because you remember them
& so it was
when i was about nineteen
working as a laborer
on a parking garage construction site
     downtown pittsburgh
that one of the carpenters
told me
we need jobs
     don't care what we build
     don't care if we build concentration camps
we need jobs right now

i'm pretty sure it wasn't an original idea
this carpenter had
after all
it wasn't long before
(or maybe just after)
that spiro agnew's
so-called hardhats
     thugs by any other name
ripped thru our anti-war march
of dick gregory for president buttons
coming out of a misappropriated
(and misnamed) golden triangle
just past the swagger of the hilton hotel
& just about the same time
that george (segregation forever) wallace
dumped his bile on the stage at the civic arena
where several hundred of us protestors
found some very effective disruptive chants
to frustrate the racists & their drivel
til we were forcibly removed by the police
and my picture ended up on the front-page
of the local newspaper
& not to my surprise
confronted with that picture
on the construction site
by the foreman who fired me
& the carpenter
and his sh*t-eatin grin
to boot
looking on
like he had just won an election
or a war
or something

but i've got to say
it was all worth it
negatives become positives
when inverted
     for good reason

--- e b bortz


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Poems, essays, and stories by e b bortz have been published widely.

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