POETRY: In this Country
Mary Altaffer / AP

Like the energy embedded

in every grain of matter

in every nucleus

in every atom


there is an enormous untapped power

in the hands of the millions

of working people in this country

who create the value every day


who are clerks and machinists

who are pilots and cleaners

who are nurses and teachers

who are a giant commune of labor


though you would never know it

in a system of production for profit

the way the workers are divided up

and the commodities are exchanged


who are black and white,

male and female,

latino and asian,

who are straight and gay,


who can and must unite,

around a fightback

if we are to survive,

let alone the people flourish,


the cities rebuilt,

racism crushed,

war abolished

the planet saved


who vote in this country

for Republicans and Democrats

parties of capital

as the case may be


I remember my father asking me

if not the Democrats

who should we vote for

in 1983


I had my little group

I had my little piece of the truth

but where was the working class

I didn’t know what to say


there is an extraordinary power

in the millions

who are the majority

in this country


you see it in every strike

you see it in every warehouse

where the glances

are exchanged,


there is that extraordinary

untapped power,


who fight the wars,

who return in body bags,

who not only die in the wars

but who also pay for them,


whose grandfather worked as a

coal miner,

whose grandmother worked as a

cleaning lady


whose daughter owes student debt

and works at starbucks

with so many bills to pay


there is that power

that extraordinary


power in this country


I think of Galileo with the sun

I think of Marx with his capital

I think of my father

driving home from work


not knowing

what he made


there is an incredible power

in the hands of working people

who make this country run




looked down upon,

stereotyped as stupid,


except when production comes

to a crashing halt,

and then as in a dream

we see everything clearly,


there is an incredible power

there is an incredible power


when combined with a media

that shouts it out

with a mighty workers party

that explains


about us

and the energy

and the struggle

and the power


who have built

the railroad

and the skyscrapers,


who punch computers

and make

the subways



like a secret

still to be named.


This poem was previously published by Blue Collar Review: Journal of Progressive Working Class Literature.


Chris Butters
Chris Butters

Chris Butters is a socialist and labor activist, retired NYC court reporter, and a former DC 37 (AFSCME) chapter officer. In addition to participating in anti-racist and labor struggles, his poetry continues to be published in Blue Collar Review, a quarterly journal of poetry and prose published by Partisan Press, and many other literary and left poetry magazines.