John Henry died for our sins!

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

in Nashville.

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

a conversation

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 snapped.

 

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,

head hot,

sweating and

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.

An ace.

 

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.

Greedy.

 

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,

seeker gave,

and how it

resonated

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,

informed and

 

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.

History.

 

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

to operate.

 

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 –

running through

most of my narrative of late is …

 

A question.

A burning question

that fuels this want

to present ideas,

what some

may call prose,

other may brand

a long read –

poetic justice.

 

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!

 

What gives?

 

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,

John Henry.

 

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.

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I Stand For Freedom!

I stand for freedom

and the right to organize!

 

I stand for love

and strong communities.

 

I stand for immigrants and

the poor.

 

I stand for human rights

and all marginalized voices.

 

I stand up for rivers

and on top of mountains

that you think you own –

i’ll stand with anyone

when your banks are

stealing their homes.

 

I stand for children and

dreams & folk traditions

that are passed down &

work to preserve our

stories, until all your

myths are torn down.

 

I will stand if that flag

is draped over a coffin

 

only devils disrespect

the dead

 

So much blood

has been spilled

for profit – I won’t

stand for Red.

I won’t stand for White

when it time to have

an American dream.

I will stand for Blue

when it’s in a song

about suffering and

when walking in someone

else’s shoes.

 

I will stand for fifty billion

stars and that stripe

called the milky way

as I look toward the heavens

& kneel down to to pray.

 

I won’t stand when you

trade blood for oil – &

trap people in cages to

work for you.

 

I will stand with any veteran

of any of your stupid wars

like i’ll stand with all workers

& the disabled when they

are knocking on

freedom’s door.

 

I will stand with the

gay community and all

of their alphabet soup –

my momma didn’t raise

no dummy – to trade

his soul for a

two piece suit.

 

I stand in my grandfather’s shoes

with his red, white and green

cedar tree flag, his brown skin &

Arab blood, he came here

looking up to you!

 

I stand with my German heritage

although my neighborhood has

been sold to the highest bidder!

Who find favor with our mayor

& their LLC’s and doctrines

of prosperity.

 

I’ll stand behind

any Native peoples!

 

– some of them fought

for you –

 

although you pitted them

against each other like you

so often do!

 

I’ll stand anywhere I please

and sit down like Rosa Parks

if need be! This land was

never your land! Do you

remember Wounded Knee?

 

So, America,

get off your high horse

and practice what you

preach – you once

put that flag on the moon

with your ego and

gritted teeth.

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My new position with Railroad Workers United

Two days from now, I officially start my new position with Railroad Workers United.

I will be a contracted organizer …

 

but what they don’t know is that they have hired a KAWA.

 

From what I humbly understand, from my deep study of West African, Guinean village tradition, is that the Kawa is the person who is in contact with the ancestors. The Kawa knows the natural medicines of the area and where they are to be found and is sort of the maintainer of society.

 

Sort of like a peacekeeper.

 

When there are ceremonies and community events happening, the Kawa wanders the crowd making sure people are staying appropriate and respecting the tradition and others.

 

Kind of like the Sergeant of Arms in a union meeting.

 

The video below is one of my favorite all-time YouTube videos. It is a Kawa and his apprentice.

Fadouba Oulare the Djembe player, was a very respected musician. I never had the honor of meeting him, but one of my teachers, Bolokada Conde was very good friends with him.

I take the human side of organizing very seriously. Speaking as someone who has burned out as organizer before – One of the many problems that I see with the labor movement is that they put their apprentices into very powerful positions.

Sometimes organizations expect interns and paid organizers to do way too much internal organizational work. They put people into positions that they’re not ready to fill.

Sometimes that’s OK, however, only if there are patient and loving elders who have tons of experience. Elders who are employed to mentor and challenge strategy that is academic in nature. (that is not to say that all academic study is bad)

The native peoples for centuries solved many of the social problems that We, in the various movements that we are in, are suffering from today. Many native societies had already weeded out the organizational sicknesses that I see today that are originating from corporate thinking … i.e. metrics, performance evaluations, production goals and certain team building cultures.

Those sorts of corporate ideals are evasive and do not belong in structures that are designed to care take human conditions of exploitation, violence and intentional conditions of un-organization. Labor Unions and Community organizations are infested with academic corporate culture and language that is toxic.

In my humble opinion, that is why the AFL-CIO, the UAW and many other community organizations can’t seem to organize the south as well as they would like. They need more Kawas. The organizations need more elders who understand the community and know how to hold it.

The Kawa is sort of the police department. Sort of the internal auditor of the code of culture … the protector of the mission and vision. We need as a society, to re-evaluate and define social policing. Many native societies had already figured that out as well.

more on that later ….

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Folk Labor Desk – What is the #ANTIFA

On this episode of the Folk Labor Desk, John Paul explores several sides of the question – Who is the ANTIFA or the so called “ALT LEFT.”

Reporting from the heart of Central Kentucky – Leitchfield, Kentucky, John Paul gives a little bit of his personal background as well as coins a not so new hashtag for the pundits to talk about while in the confines of their respective social media fox holes and corporate media break rooms …

#TheChildrenOfTheSocialRevolution or

the #CSR

Please share this video with like minded folks. I sure could use your support.  You can support my work by going here and purchasing my music or poetry!

Thanks Y’all

Have a goodin’

John Paul


America’s myths are  being exposed and run  through the ringer of public discourse.

America’s myths are
being exposed and run
through the ringer
of public discourse.

Dear America,

Keep trying to explain
your way out of this.

The more you talk,
the more you expose
your weakness.

You know you lied. 
You snuck out of the house
got drunk and wrecked the car
date raped the country
and someone caught
you on video.

You know slavery was a

labor policy called human trafficking.

A slave is a slave is a slave.

Like the workers who made your shirt.
Like the wage slave at a for
profit, who trades labor for love,
because they are part of the team.
Like the military protecting “Our”

oil interests in the region.

So, keep talking.

Your children are
getting the picture.

You can’t blame this
on commies and reds.
You cant blame this
on the media.

The issue is –

you lied about
what you did.

And now the children
of the social revolution
want your heroes gone.
They are seeking truth
and getting results.

So, fess up.
America …
the more you try
to lie and make
excuses –
the more you
dig your own grave.

The founding fathers
were just men.

Like all other.

They were
just men, protecting
their own ass.

They wanted
power, land
and money.

They made selfies
called dollars.

They prayed
to God that trust
wouldn’t find them
delusional.

Now, they
are being
crucified,
by their own
children.
Melted away
in a pot of
their own
creation.
John Paul

Doomed To Fall

 


I’ve had my Black Elk moment at age 47.

The tree of my people is on fire!

I am dressed in red,

all my prayers have been said

and it seems we are doomed to fall.

 

The masters of war

on the eve of destruction

playing with their battle toys!

The masters of war

on the eve of destruction

boys will be boys.

 

That’s a Bob Dylan and a PF Sloan tune.

Our lessons have not been learned.

My folk music ways, are dying today

and it seems they are going to brand us all.

 

With hell fire like we have never seen!

My, my generation knows not of Japan!

Who against who, in this media zoo?

This land was never our land.


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New Song – I’m Gonna Die

They say that writers should be

isolated – by a certain degree.

They say a rhyme should be

tied – to some sort of scheme.

They say you can’t do that

and this is how it’s done.

They seem to hide when the

collection plate comes.

 

Chorus

 

I’m gonna die!

I just might lose my voice.

I’m gonna die!

This life was not my choice.

I’m gonna die from a lack

of common decency.

I’m gonna die.

 

They said fill out these forms.

Ask, who do you know?

They wanna make sure

you won’t steal the show.

They wanna see ya suffer.

Ask for your membership dues.

They don’t care if your limping

all about in your walking shoes.

 

Chorus

 

They seem to have deep pockets

so deep – they can’t reach the funds.

They want you a beggin’ for a life

of peace, solitude and fun.

They live in glass houses – have

all the answers for you.

They can’t understand how a good

man could ever get the blues!