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Monday, September 7, 2009

In Honor of Labor Day: Images of Labor

In 2000, HFR's issue #26 featured a special section entitled Images of Labor. "Writing about work can be difficult," wrote editors Michael Guerra and Richard Yanez, "because work itself can be mundane...With this in mind, we selected pieces that approached the theme of labor in an unexpected way." In honor of Labor Day, we'd like to resurrect some of the content from the special section here. This photograph, "Amtrak to Topeka, 1997" is from Robert Specter.

"If work can be despised," wrote the editors,"it can also be a boast, a swagger--an attitude, as in E. Michael Disilet's "Railroad Union Spiders."

Railroad Union Spiders

Railroad spiders don't
fuck around
though once in a while a wasp
does one in and it'll land
in my coffee
a wet strand of web
lacing across the black
dial phone
to punctuate
the moment of doom

When I answer on
the fifth ring
it'll be that asshole
Mallory inquiring
about the caboose report
or the empty hopper
on the fourth iron
or the collection
they're taking up
for some careless brakeman

I'll eye the tile-bound spiders
galloping across the florescent
tubes to finish off
a few exhausted moths
and squeeze the receiver between
my ear and my shoulder
'til Mallory sucks in air
and I take the opportunity
to tell him I've got
a dead one in my java

You're an exasperatin' son of a bitch
he'll say as if a defunct arachnid
in the hot black pool
of a Mister Donut recyclable cup
totally lacks cosmic significance
and I'll remind him that we're both
union men in a union war
fighting for a union world
and he'll just hang up
which was the general idea

For more content from issue #26, see the HFR website. We hope you enjoy your day off (if you get one)!

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