Poetry: OHIO
Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University on May 4, 1970. | John Filo / AP

Republic Technologies, Lorain, Ohio, June 14, 2002 —

— Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, May 4, 1970 —


For Bruce Bostick


when the owners of the steel mill

washed their hands

of paying the workers’

pension plan


because the corporation filed

for bankruptcy in 2002

and the courts deemed

that contract null and void


a steelworker dropped dead

from the meaning of the betrayal

and the gunshot

from his own hunting rifle


all his life the worker had worked

on the line

based on that



the hope and dreams

of retiring after everything

all those years of working

in the mill


when the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation

decreed OK

for the owners to bolt

because of the bankruptcy


paving the way

for every owner

in auto, airline,

trucking, and steel to do the same


it could have been

a gunshot to the heart

of the workers movement


Bruce Bostick, a United Steelworkers of America Organizer, speaks to workers protesting across the street from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals building where the court was holding a hearing about the pension benefits for 2,500 former Republic Technologies steelworkers, Aug. 11, 2004. | Ernest Coleman / Cincinnati Enquirer via AP

the workers protested

at the capital

their lawyers appealed

to the Bush-appointed court the outrage


cutbacks, layoffs,

health care, pensions


a contract is a contract

if we workers refused

to honor a contract

we would be put in jail


but the courts which had once

upheld the pension system

upheld the ripping

of the very same contract


the big business newspapers

which had condoned organized labor

now upheld a company’s

sacred bottom line


I think the word had gone out

now the Cold War was over,

no longer necessary to broadcast

capitalism as superior to socialism


any agreement with the AFL-CIO

was an obstacle

to the new world order

multinational corporations sought to build


a new world order

of cheapening labor,

new technology,

and more profits


walls between nations

must fall

for capitalists,

not for workers


pensions for steel workers

should go the way with

unions and Social Security

and the eight-hour day


only the newspaper

of the steelworkers’ union

noted the strange irony

of history


how this worker,

killed by Republic Technologies,

had family ties to another event

in Ohio state history


this one from days

of protests

against the Vietnam War


how that steelworker’s brother

protesting next to a young woman

had become something

of a legend in the area


because of a famous photograph

as she kneeled

next to his stricken body

on a college lawn


her hands

over her mouth

a look of horror

as if forever on her face


as if she saw

on the horizon

a long train



as if she saw

a war, though still

far off, beginning

to shamble home


yes, brothers and sisters,

you know

the photograph

I mean now


bombers flying high

over Vietnam fields and jungles,

troops facing protesting students

in the heartland of America


the chants against the war,

fists lifted in the air,

the connections between things,

the gunshots


the bodies falling to the ground

the line of protesters gasping back,

the American dream, the American scream,

the silence


yes, brothers and sisters,

you know

the photograph

I mean now


that other Ohio time,

that other Ohio place


the protester

fallen to the ground

was the dead steelworker’s



and the woman screaming

next to his crumpled body

was  because he had been slain

by the Guard at Kent State


(Previously published in Blue Collar Review.)


Chris Butters
Chris Butters

Chris Butters is a co-chair of the Brooklyn, NY Club. He is a 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 and many other literary and left poetry magazines.