How Tomorrow Moves is a CSX railroad slogan and Coal Keeps The Lights On, is the slogan of the coal industry’s propaganda arm, Friends of Coal. Because our Conductor and Locomotive Engineer seniority districts cover almost the entire country southeast of the Ohio River, railroaders were being forced to move from places that they had lived for generations.
I left my darlin’ family in a little ol country town
chasin’ these trains across the state.
When I call my little children they ask me
“daddy when ya coming home?” and
I just don’t know what to say.
This railroad says I have to train on my own dime, for thirty days.
Well, no one should be expected to work for free.
When I ask my union brothers, they say “it is what it is”
Now that we have southern system seniority.
So I am, moving to the city to be employed or unemployed
Workin’ for this railroad for free.
I wonder how my kids are doin?
Wonder how my wife is holdin’ up.
And will those friends keep the lights on for me.
They say “coal keeps the lights on” but I can’t pay my utility bills.
And there ain’t no guarantee there’ll l be a spot for me to fill.
Then ill have to go somewhere’s else for 30 more days.
I guess this is “How Tomorrow Moves”
My family’s lived in eastern Kentucky for a really long time.
Working for the railroad, or down in some dark mine.
I’m proud to be a miner’s son,
never signed up to live a life on the run.
I wonder where those friends of coal are now.
I spoke of our ancestors.
An invocation by name.
knew me as Glenda’s boy
back when you were the big name
in our activist circles!
I wanted out!
So I went off on my own
and found my activist
work in Nuclear Free Zone
of Louisville. I was 15 –
your name and work was
oppressive to my identity.
I “Lifted Every Voice!”
in a trade found of
My voice was tired
and weary from missing
yours. a sound –
oh so close these days
and nights of longing.
Feeling called –
I put a rose over my door
to invite soft conversation.
To conjure spirits
in kind, luring lost souls
to action – ghosts –
calling them, home.
As our organizing used to
be, coffee, child, mother –
lesson plans and your
want to see me shine.
Your birds out the window
my childhood home
your eyes and strong
words – Everything is
an Educational Moment -.
and I could do no wrong!
and We honor our elders!
at all cost. and in that
respect, they are placed
in a position of
understanding. A giveaway –
as known by native
voices – sometimes
i feel, like a motherless
child – but last night
at the Unity Dinner
i felt as if I
was being called
I am thinking back to my last
days on the rail.
Back to a final run that ended
in Cave City, KY.
My conductor and I
waiting for a van ride home.
We dogged, didn’t make it.
Thinking back to the train derailment
in Colesburg, Kentucky.
Thinking back to the locker room
Sitting at the picnic table, in the crew room –
listening to five trainmasters
make light of an unsafe situation
that could have killed
four of my union brothers
and possibly an entire town.
A 16,000 plus ton train.
Two locomotives on the head-end.
Two locomotives in the middle.
The train being in total, almost two miles long.
Two days before, a train just like this one
came off the rail putting 20 something
cars on the ground.
Half of it, still sitting up on Tunnel Hill.
Rumors, as of that morning were;
that the cleanup crew while
trying to move the rest of the derailed train,
what was left of it, almost derailed again.
I am thinking about the day
that broke the camel’s back.
My plan was to go to work and
just do what they tell me to do.
The trains that we were being expected
to run, were the talk of the town.
Something was always going wrong,
numbers were being crunched,
books being cooked, and we were all
being expected to just, “run the plan.”
I am thinking about
with my bosses.
The tremendous pressure that was
causing them to try and gauge
what my modus operandi would
be for that day.
One on the bosses, matter of fact,
the Terminal Superintendent,
suggested that he had heard,
“that us Louisville boys
don’t really like this train.”
I asked the railroad officials
the names of the people who were
almost killed the day before.
They didn’t know their names.
I am thinking about what I said,
pissed off more than ever before.
I almost marked off sick. Language, native.
A language only railroaders know.
Marking off sick,
the ace up the sleeve
that gives us a way out.
I told them very sternly
to get out of my fucking face.
I told them, I would show them how
to inspect four locomotives.
Twenty minutes for each machine.
They knew what I was saying. Implying.
They knew I was right to be throwing this fit.
Nobody thought these new trains were, a good idea.
That is why I never heard
the threat of insubordination.
And to be more explicit and
somewhat to conjure another voice
that was informing my resolve –
I told my train masters to …
Go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut,
go take a flying fuck at the moon.
Ting a ling, and so on.
They didn’t mention that they would
charge me with delay of trains.
The five bosses knew that what we were
being expected to do was insane.
They mentioned that this was not their idea
and were only taking orders.
They were half drunk on kool aid –
half on my side and wanting the strength
of my union educated foot to somehow
strike out at the ass of the message maker,
not their messenger positions.
I am thinking about how,
for almost two years before that day in the
locker room – about how a fragment of a speech –
from a presentation at Yale University
that Wendell Berry,
the poet, family man,
and how it
in my soul.
I am thinking about how two lines
haunted my moral convictions.
I am thinking back,
in hopes my hindsight is 20/20.
I am thinking about being part
of an organization that beat down
the first widespread union supported
attempt to reduce trains crews
to just one person.
I am thinking about the
luddites who quickly new –
“the industrial economy from agriculture to war
is by far the most violent the world has ever known
and we are all complicit in its violence. The history
of industrialization has been violent
from the start”
I am thinking about the word,
how that word is used to suggest an authoritative
voice that speaks from experience.
And how that thought
takes me to this fragment.
I am thinking seriously about a moral.
A moral to a folk story and how that story,
and the fragments of a presentation from a poet,
informed my decision to walk away from a career.
A career that I was proud somewhat,
to be part of.
John Henry died for our sins!
John Henry lives every day when a
human being is being asked
to conform to an unreasonable shift.
A shift to the inhumane practices
of an industrial economy.
He died with a last request.
He wanted a cool drink of water
before he died.
What informed my decision
to abandon my post of Locomotive Engineer
was a complicated list that stretches as long
as the trains that were being demanded of us
And down a side track, I go, again.
I am also informed by another folk story
of what seems to be happening to me now
because of my decision.
Jumping Mouse, the fictional mouse in a well know
native peoples’ folk tale, is found to be suspicious after
his decision to leave his community.
After Jumping Mouse
was tricked to fall into the river –
he found himself not
trusted by his friends!
The searching –
that want to go away –
leave, find wisdom –
became a serious burden
and a long, difficult journey.
And what seems to me
to be a one-track pondering –
most of my narrative of late is …
A burning question
that fuels this want
to present ideas,
may call prose,
other may brand
a long read –
Isn’t’ this enough?
The creative questions presented!
Isn’t the hook baited well enough to be
expecting further questions?
I have named dropped well known
contemporary thinkers, folk tales,
scary stories of possible destruction!
I guess I am tied to John Henry
and his demise.
As many railroaders
who have not a clue
who their own
folk hero was,
there are as many
folklorists who didn’t
ever stop to think –
what was the moral to the story?
I have never heard a question
presented by any academic
accreditation that went to the
very end of the folk thesis.
Did John Henry ever
get his cool drink of water?
If I must suffer another narrative
of what is wrong with the railroad,
I also may just die before being allowed
time to vindicate the demise of my fellow
worker and brother,
I am thinking back to
the day, I walked away.
I am thinking back
to a lonely dark spring early
morning, watching leaves
blow down the street in
Cave City, Kentucky –
the day I sidetracked
my train and went home.
The Cooperative Manifesto II
– in between
the old and the new –
I see the old,
grey hair with eyes
glowing of potentials.
Missions and Visions –
what was, growing old and
disappearing. Tired and worn of
speeches, marches and failures,
teach -ins, chants and just be in …
all the kings, horses, all the queens
and children cooperatively
playing alternative melodies
dreaming, eating and singing together.
What once was, in danger of coming
I see the young
excited faces with fists
clinched in solidarity,
decisions and resolutions –
what is, the passionate and
growing. Ready and willing to
stand, get in the way of weapons
made to destroy life as we know it …
all the groups, factions, the new people
and children competitive –
participating in innocence –
dreaming, fighting and looking
to what once was, in danger of coming
(In the fierce urgency
of our time …
I sit in the middle
branded and caught.)
We hold these myths to be potential
they, hold truth to be self-evident.
We cooperatively exist! –
on the other side
of duality. Afraid of nothing.
Lost and found –
rejecting all that is made
to destroy nature!
We, united in love
employed in each other.
Oh, my friends,
quiet your heart
from fearful beatings.
There is darkness –
because of light.
There is an end
because of beginnings.
Our lives, the planets –
our loves, circle.
Trust in return
and find peace
in each other.
We already own.
– Like my mother
used to say –
First your money
then your clothes,
and then you find
Change your mind
to change your life.
So let it be known …
We have no time
for worry! Power
is relevant only
to the ones
taunt the risk
Picture and Article from the Good Neighbor Food Cooperative newsletter circa 1990.
An image, i could have swore
was your face, while mine
dripping wet, glasses on the
sink, blurry vision – hands
cupped, water splashing like
morning prayers – I saw your
look in the mirror. The one
when you were fighting all
the King’s horses and all
the King’s men, like when
somebody was messin’ with
one of yours.
A feeling. Like old women
wailing at icons and kissing
pictures of saints – and I
get this feeling, that rushes
through my soul – something
like a haunting, ominous breath
or a reminder … “These are not
A warm kiss on my ear from
somewhere there, and my
morning ritual continues …
When you were dying, i asked
to whom were your praying …
like two students might ask, who
are you reading these days, and
you said … “Mother Mary.”
I should have known you would
say that. You said, “She was so
powerful, and knew what they
were doing to her son. She even
saw her own son, die.”
And like that, this little boy wakes
with a download! A muse whispering
from some distant star. Vibrations
tickling thought and memory. A
voice of a writer who never was
allowed to speak – slips in like
a dervish merchant, like a little
kid tapping one shoulder and
then playfully running
the other way. —
… and after writing that down …
i walk out my backdoor –
in ritual, trees waving – frigid
breeze of morning and yes
i hear you! That lonesome
whistle! We used to be.
And, I loved you.
Your cold steel friends, unforgiving
extremes … heat like radiation –
cold like death. Everywhere
I look this morning, i feel
as if I am walking a graveyard.
Memories like grass and weeds
not cut for years around markers
long forgotten …
Escape is not relative or
being courted –
death like vision and mission
moves about like fireflies
in every tearless glance.
And i feel a peace
in knowing love is
as a lover sings lullabies
to a dead child as leaves
fall to renewal – as
light fades like a life
connection – as an old
person only remembers
the good old days.
Especially with the rise of the new socialist movement of today! Upton Sinclair’s conclusion to his book, Profits of Religion, gives folks a very important warning to what the movement may suffer from.
The full audiobook is posted below.
This book was self published in 1917.
I have known hundreds of young radicals in my life; they have nearly all been gallant and honest, but they have not all been wise, and therefore not so happy as they might have been. In the course of time I have formulated to myself the peril to which young radicals are exposed. We see so much that is wrong in ancient things, it gets to be a habit with us to reject them. We have only to know that a thing is old to feel an impulse of impatient scorn; on the other hand, we are tempted to welcome anything which can prove itself to be unprecedented. There is a common type of radical whose aim in life is to be several jumps ahead of mankind; whose criterion of conduct is that it shocks the bourgeois. If you do not know that type, you may find him—and her—in the newest of the Bohemian cafes, drinking the newest red chemicals, smoking the newest brand of cigarettes, and discussing the newest form of psychopathia sexualis. After you have watched them awhile, you realize that these ultra-new people have fallen victim to the oldest form of logical fallacy, the non sequitur, and likewise to the oldest form of slavery, which is self-indulgence.