New Jersey PBS station NJN runs a weekend show called State of the Arts which covers artists and their works throughout New Jersey. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it.
It runs Thursday night on NJN and then several times over the weekend on NJN2.
This week’s episode was a homerun (watch it here) where all the main stories were fascinating and I wanted to share one with you because I was so moved by Joe Weil’s story and his poetry.
Joe grew up in Elizabeth and worked as a tool maker for many years which he described as a time for him to work from muscle memory and keep his mind clear for thinking and writing his poetry. His poetry covers life in Elizabeth, his work and his family life. After retiring from his factory job, he became a poetry professor at Binghamton University in New York.
Read more about him here and read one of the poems presented on the show below.
PAINTING THE CHRISTMAS TREES
In my odyssey of dead end jobs,
cursed by whatever gods
do not console,
I end up
at a place that makes
fake Christmas trees:
some pink, some blue,
one that revolves ever so slowly
to the strains of Silent Night.
Sometimes, out of sheer despair,
I rev up its Rpms
and send it spinning
wildly through space–
disguised as a Balsam fir.
I run a machine
that spits paint
onto wire boughs,
each length of bough a different shade–
color coded– so that America will know
which end fits where.
This is spray paint of which I speak–
no ventilation, no saftey masks,
lots of poor folk speaking various broken toungues,
a guy from Poland with a ruptured disk
lifting fifty pound boxes of
so damaged by police “interrogation”
he flinches when you
raise your arm too suddenly near,
and all of us hating the job,
knowing it’s meaningless,
yet singing, cursing, telling jokes,
unentitled to anything but joy,
the lurid, unreasonable joy
that sometimes overwhelms you even in a hole like this.
it’s a joy rulers
mistake for proof of “The Human Spirit.”
I tell you it is Kali,
the great destroyer,
her voice singing amidst butchery and hate.
It is Rachel the inconsolable
weeping for her children.
It goes both over and under
“The Human spirit.”
It is my father
crying in his sleep
because he works
twelve hour shifts six days a week
and can’t make rent.
It is one hundred and ten degrees
in the land of fake Christmas trees.
It is Blanca Ramirez keeling over pregnant
sans green card.
It is a nation that has
not knowing how many lost
to the greater good of retail. It is Marta the packer
rubbing her crippled hands with
Lourdes water and hot chilies.
It is bad pay and worse diet and
the minds of our children
turned on the wheel of sorrow–
no langauge to leech it from the blood,
no words to draw it out–
a fake Christmas tree spinning wildly in the brain,
and who can stop it, who ‘
unless grief grows a hand
and writes the poem?
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