Archive for May, 2009

Double Espresso, by Carol Tarlen

May 15, 2009

in the relatively anonymous

we come in the


contradiction between

Capital and Labour


I am dominant

when I lie


beneath your belly you thrust

raw material is pain is


subordinate public policy

experience interpreted


my hands are

encoded subcultures


my hands play

with social formations


leave the back door open

when you leave


Fire, by Carol Tarlen

May 15, 2009

for Jeon Tae-il, teenaged South Korean garment worker who in 1970 committed suicide to protest the lack of enforcement of existing labor laws

His clothes soak gasoline
his face sweats gasoline
his hair shines gasoline
he flicks the lighter
flames surge up his arms and back
illuminate the dark alley
of his labor
we are not machines he cries
fire consumes his flesh
we are not metal he screams
we eat dust, we cough blood
fall asleep at our sewing machines
they inject dope into our veins
our skin burns with each stitch
we beg for time to eat
we beg for time to sing
we beg for time to strip naked
we beg to see the night
to see the sun rise
we beg for time to piss
we beg to eat
we beg for work
we are flames
we are not machines
we are not the engines that feed your dreams
we are blood and flesh

I burn
I burn for the small chest bones
of the girls bent with tuberculosis
I burn for the days and nights of constant work
I burn for the laws that are pissed on
I burn for my mother and sisters
who sleep on torn blankets
spread on the bare floor
I burn for all my sisters
who spit blood into their cupped hands
I burn for my brothers
forced to die in Vietnam
I am a monk who burns for peace
I am a woman burned by Christian priests
I am Joan burned for liberation
I am a worker burned as she pounds
on the locked factory door
I am the Russian Jew burned in a pit at Babi Yar
I am the child whose burning hands
are thrust through the barred tenement window
I am their flesh, I am their dreams
I am flames
I am not a machine
I am not a machine
I am spirit
I am light
I am love

The Snow Leopard’s Comrades by Carol Tarlen

May 8, 2009

“The new model is materialistic,”
they said, eating cabbage and potato soup
in their cramped, cold apartment.
“You have too many malls in America,
too many autos, too much.
We have nothing.”
“You have the snow leopard,”
their visitor said.

In Tajikistan only the blessed
glimpse the snow leopard’s white coat,
its black stripes
marking its small footprints
etched into ice.
How many are left
now that the walls have fallen
and poachers hunt their prey?

“It’s not the people’s fault,”
they said between sips
of their hot meal.
“They too are hungry.
All is endangered in Tajikistan.
Europeans collect everything.
Even insects belong to the free market.
Maybe we too will end up
on some rich man’s wall,” they laughed.

Their guest was silent.
He had visited empty zoos,
shared thin soups,
trudged through mountains
once protected by commissars,
crystallized icy beauty
now a stock market commodity.

“Oil companies are petitioning
our government to explore
with blasting caps
or whatever is cost effective,”
his hosts said.
“Economics come first.
Even we need soup,”
they grinned.

“What will you do?”
the American asked.
One man spoke.
“Here the people have lived for centuries
off the earth, as part of the earth.
There was no need for conservation.
But we have studied the market place
and we are now green.
We will educate the children.
They will understand.”

Yesterday the American had seen
a snow leopard’s cadaver,
toothless, thin, its coat spotted
with hairless patches.
“What happened to it?” he had asked.

“When a creature who lives off prey
has nothing to hunt,
its teeth fall out.
It’s the process of starvation.
We are all hungry creatures,”
the man explained.
“But we are hopeful
because we are the green movement
here in Tajikistan.
And because we are human,
we are foolish, but hopeful.”
They fell silent, looking
into their empty soup bowls.

The American, too, grew hopeful.
He had wanted to be blessed.
He had wanted to see a leopard,
sleek and sacred,
gliding over the snow.
“How many are you
in this movement?” he asked.
“Four,” they answered. “We are four.
But we are hopeful.”

Celebrating A Rebel Poet of San Francisco’s New Information Economy

May 4, 2009

Carol Tarlen,   1943-2004

Carol Tarlen, 1943-2004

Location: Modern Times Books, 888 Valencia Street, San Francisco                   Date:  Friday, July 10, 7 pm

Sponsored by San Francisco Labor Fest

Family and friends of  Carol Tarlen will swap stories, read poems, present a slide show, and sing to honor her work and spirit. Poets, writers, filmmakers, and performers will include:
Derek Dabkoski,     Marcus Duskin,     Jeff Goldthorpe.  David Joseph,   Sarah Menefee,     Louise Nayer,     Christy Rodgers,    Leslie Simon,      Alicia Tarlen,   Nellie Wong.

It has been five years since Carol Tarlen’s passing, yet her work has not received the notice it cries out for. We will not let her brilliant, incisive body of work be “disappeared” by the latest cycle of the info-economy’s “eternal now.” Her community is coming together to share the light of Carol’s words with the larger Labor Fest, progressive community. This event will give a sense of the range of Carol’s work, suggest her personal sensibility, and present the work of those she touched.

This blog has been established to prepare the way for this event. Carol’s friends, family, and co-workers need a site to share her work, reflect on her life and work, and discuss how to transmit her work to future readers. Please submit your favorite Carol Tarlen poems and short prose to the blog, post your own comments, and contribute to the planning of the July 10th event.

About the Author:  Carol Tarlen had her poetry and prose published in literary journals (Ikon, Exquisite Corpse, The Berkley Poetry Review, Sing Heavenly Muse, Hurricane Alice, Poetry USA) and in three anthologies:  Calling Home: Writings of Working Class Women (Rutgers University Press); Liberating Memory (Rutgers University Press); and For A Living (University of Illinois Press).  In 1994, she was the first place winner in the San Francisco Bay Guardian Poetry Contest.  She was active for many years in labor, peace, and homeless advocacy groups.  Ms Tarlen died in 2004.

Ah, Yes, Carol Lives by Nellie Wong

May 4, 2009

Ah, yes, Carol lives
She smiles from her abode
knowing that the picket line thrives
that UPTE’s striking on May 6
against UC Berkeley
for an unfair labor practice
while the president scoops up
almost a million bucks a year
and UC runs with corporate legs
and typists and researchers
and techs and laundry workers
dig deeper except their pockets
are full of holes
Ah, Carol, we know that you’re
with the workers, holding up
your picket sign, chanting
“The people united
will never be defeated!”
The angels’ liberation front
is the place to be seen
and heard and meanwhile
we’ll grab a burrito and, yes,
a Margarita at Puerto Allegro,
we’ll carry on with paradise
on earth on May Day
and feast on our victories
won each minute, each hour,
each day knowing that our labor
counts, that you’ll sing, a voice
that flows a river of flowers
amid the tools in our hands