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Father Answers His Adversaries

August 12, 1990

by LAWRENCE KEARNEY

It's early March, Eisenhower still

president, & Mother's heating up supper

for the third time tonight.

We're at the table doing homework,

& she tells us Father's next in line

for foreman, that today he'll know for sure.

He's three hours late.

Half past eight the Chevy

screeches into the carport.

For a minute, nothing.

Then the sudden slam, & the thump downstairs

to the basement. Beneath our feet

Father lays into the workbench

with a sledgehammer--the jam jars

of nails, of screws, of nuts & bolts

he'd taken years to sort out

exploding against the wall.

Later, sheepish, he comes up,

slumps in his seat & asks for supper.

And when Mother brings his plate

& he looks up at her

& she takes his head on her breast,

he blushes, turns away, & spits out

that final, weary-mouthed answer

to all of it--General Motors & the bosses

& the union pimps & the punched-out Johnnies,

every yes-man goddam ass-lick

who'd ever been jumped to foreman

over him-- aah, crap's like cream, it rises.

From Peter Oresick and Nicholas Coles, editors, "Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life" (An Illini Book/University of Illinois Press: $13.95 paper; 269 pp.; 0-252-06133-0). The editors of this collection of poetry from working-class, blue-collar America, past and present, are both from Pittsburgh: Oresick is marketing manager at the University of Pittsburgh Press, Coles teaches in the University of Pittsburgh English Department. Kearney, born in Oxford, now lives in Buffalo, N . Y. 1990, Lawrence Kearney. Reprinted by permission of University of Illinois Press.

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