Thursday, September 06, 2007

Monday Poetry Stretch: Acrostic

A Labor Day Acrostic

It seems to me there is less respect today than at anytime in my life for the labor of common folk. The air of entitlement among some folk only a generation or two removed from "linthead" and "clodbuster" ancestors is downright shocking. People who would still be tied to farm or mill had there been no union movement or New Deal or GI Bill are adamantly anti-union, anti-Democratic, anti-government programs period. There is very little awareness or appreciation for the incredible number of hands responsible for each little luxury and convenience we partially consume and largely consign to metastasizing landfills. There is great disdain for those whose labor is necessary to our wasteful lifestyles. And how dare our tax dollars be used to provide health insurance to common laborers who contribute less than us to the tax coffers.

On Labor Day this year I had the rare privilege of listening as several of my older relatives discussed the work their parents did in the cotton mills of Georgia and South Carolina. I am very proud of those folks. They sacrificed much to give their children better lives.

One interesting story was about how, when the small Methodist Church (the graveyard of which holds my grandparents) in Porterdale was used for a union organizing meeting it was burned down.

On the 1900 census of Spaulding County Georgia you will find my 10 year old Uncle Ervin listed as "elevator boy" and my fifteen year old grandmother as "mill worker". Think about that my young friends as you clip on your iPods and head to the gym to workout in your 75 dollar Nikes.

I interviewed Uncle Ervin when he was in his nineties back about 1981. He mentioned visiting Ashland, Alabama (from Griffin, Georgia) in his youth. I asked him how he got there. I thought perhaps he took a horse or wagon or maybe a train. No. "I got there the same way I got anywhere else," he said, "I walked."

I'm sure it was good exercise. I do not think he wore Nikes.

So here's my response to Tricia's Monday Poetry Stretch, an acrostic for Labor Day.

Little Uncle Irvin, ten-years-old,
A new employee, runs the mill's
Big elevator, up and down, hour after hour --
Our grandmother, fifteen and fatherless, an old hand upstairs --
Raising the bosses and the bossed,

Day after 1900 day,
And Will, and Fanny, and Molly, and Cora,
Year after non-union year.

by Terrell Shaw

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