Hold the Fort/ Jen Fitzgerald

Hold the fort

For we are coming…

I.W.W. Battle Song



Mallet men of manifest destiny keep time; women waulking tweed keep time;

rhythmic stomps, knocks of cloth on plank; a song; if we still raised our voices

like progeny; like singing lineage; the fluid life of memory; inheritance; in time;

with time; in step;  

side by side

we battle onward

victory will come

who are my people; sing in Gaelic; seafarers and women waiting with child;

sing in Bantu; sing in Mandarin; of sugar beets and rail ties; sing in Arabic;

sing in Mixtec; sing in Polish; old world dirges cut to notes; where is the hymn,

cry, wail; listen; the souls of Everett Massacre still march the dock to shore up

the strike; still moor the barge, shot in the chest, singing;

look my comrade

see the Union

banner waving high

cadence of march-step is not chorus— it is progression; in step; procession;

in time; parade; in victory or loss; deputized guns enforce man’s laws; who is

man; from what have we been cleaved; who are my people; what is our weapon;

from what clash have we come; why are we so quiet; ghosts of Haymarket sing

the cadence of keeping time;


now appearing

victory is nigh

what is right; what are human rights; what is inalienable; who are illegal aliens;

who are my people; how is immigration a wave; I feel the double barrel

of history at my back; who is my collective; who has been sacrificed;

what order did we salvage, find, abandon; who stands behind us; Uprising

of 20,000 pound NYC streets in Yiddish; Tsuris; Triangle Shirtwaist girls

and women bolted to their machines, sing;

see our numbers

still increasing

hear the bugles blow

what is anger; what is justified; how is living a wage; how is living a gap;

shredded down false lines; what divisions, deviations, coercions; what have we

been fed; who are migrant workers; who have been migrant workers; you’ve

got to earn to be worth something; from what earth have we come;

who are my people; where is our likeness;

by our Union

we shall triumph

over every foe

who was in Memphis when Dr. King shouted, All Labor has dignity;

who was in Memphis when hired hands shot him; who was in Memphis

when 42,000 marched night streets in silent step; who shares this history;

who are my people; what is our weapon; what have we handed over;

this was our time in the watchtower; we’re overrun;

fearsome long

the battle rages

but we do not fear

the last Molly Maguire strung up at Jim Thorpe gallows sings with the 326

men and boys of Monangah; bellows with 259 of Cherry Mine, 263 at Stag

Canyon, 239 in Jacobs Creek; why are keepers of history confused

for prophets; to whom are they singing; what reinforcements can the dead

offer; whom can they wake; my people are sleeping;

help will come

when ere it’s needed

cheer my comrades, cheer

I’ve come here by means colonized, destitute, and indentured; I stand here

the daughter of labor; the daughter of quarries, mine collapses, lumberjacks,

share croppers, wage slaves; my people are sleeping; I sing foot posts,

skid row, butchers, tenements, assembly lines, carpenters; a history collective;

I sing trappers, crabbers, factory floor; farm hands, chain gangs, shanty towns;

my people are tired; I sing prison, expendables, machines, internment camp,

reservations, generations; my people are stirring; I sing ships, mountains,

pueblos, oceans, commerce, continents, migration; I sing the yawning fissure

of capital; frayed strings striking chord after chord; they call back;

hold the fort,

for we are coming

Union hearts be strong.



Jen Fitzgerald Freezing in EltingvilleJen Fitzgerald was born on Labor Day into a lawless geography. Her family has been on Staten Island 200 years and refuses to integrate into normal society. She is a poet, essayist and photographer who got her MFA in Poetry at Lesley University and her BA in Writing at The College of Staten Island (CUNY). She is the host of New Books in Poetry Podcast, a member of New York Writers Workshop, and teaches creative writing online and around NYC. Her first collection of poetry, “The Art of Work” was published by Noemi Press in September of 2016. Her essays, poetry, and photography have appeared/are forthcoming in such outlets as PBS Newshour, Tin House, Boston Review, Salon, PEN Anthology, New England Review, Colorado Review, among others. She is proud of her working-class roots, judges a person by their work ethic, and elevates the “everyday” into art. Follow her on Twitter @BestFitzgerald.


Header Image: Creative Commons, Photo by Terence Faircloth.

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