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Poem: Flagwaver

Angry sarcasm drives this poem that Kalar wrote after traveling to Salt Lake City in 1928 to see where labor activist Joe Hill was executed in 1915. Flagwaver When I get patriotic, I go on a big drunk. Let me tell you -- Patriotism is a shot of s...

Angry sarcasm drives this poem that Kalar wrote after traveling to Salt Lake City in 1928 to see where labor activist Joe Hill was executed in 1915.

Flagwaver

When I get patriotic, I go on a big drunk.

Let me tell you --

Patriotism is a shot of snow, a whiff of opium,

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a mouthful of rotgut strong enough

to eat the brass pants off a monkey.

Let me tell you --

When the flag waves in redwhiteblue frenzy,

when fat men stand on platforms with thumbs hooked

Napoleon-wise in lapels of their coats

expounding landoffreemen,telling me America is my sweetheart,

I get patriotic as hell,

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I go on the big drunk.

When I get patriotic, I go on the big drunk.

I cut Wesley Everest, I hang that black Injun

Frank Little from a bridge, I put Joe Hill

against a wall and fill the lousy bastard

With hot jets of lead,

I break the foreign heads of strikers,

them yella slackers, them chickenlivered

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bastards.

When I get patriotic, I go on a spree.

I go on the big drunk.

From "Night Shift"

Sleep aches in the eyes; taste of ashes

dryly sands the mouth, white lips are cracked

with mouthing gobs of stale brown plug;

hours have no periods, no precision, they

are merely hours, stretching into dawn

like a haze of fog greyly lifting over lumber

to warm compulsion of the sun; they are merely

the aching cry of the body for sleep, sleep,

sweet, sweet Jesus, sleep, sleep, the far cry

of drowsy tired blood: sleep, sleep, sleep.

From "Dust of Iron Ore"

"The mine was like some horrible monster hidden in the red bowels of the earth, exhaling a poisonous vapor of dust which dropped like an unseen fog over Merritt and the little locations where the miners lived. We knew, dimly, that Merritt belonged to this monster."

From "Unemployed Anthology"

"He is an old man who was the first to go when they began to lay off men. He worked for the same company for fifteen years and in all that time he wasn't lost over six months. Now he is without work and spends his time rubbing shoulders with strong husky young men who pound the sidewalks with him, looking for work. He knows he will not find it. An old man has but a poor chance when there are hundreds of young men hungry and eager for jobs, who will take anything, who will do anything. Now he walks around the streets, or lies in the grass blinking at the sun, or goes to the dock and sits on a bench staring at the oily dark river flowing toward the dam that needs so little water these lean days. It is practically his first vacation, his first chance to blink at the sun and feel the kindly warmth of it steal up his thighs. He isn't happy. A dull perplexed look films his eyes and his forehead is puckered with worry. 'I see by the papers,' he says, 'that there ain't going to be many old people left anymore. What do you think? Think there's going to be many old people living this year?' "

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