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Mark Borczon’s He Was A Good Father is a hard-earned devotion to the facts. In these poems you sense a man’s life being redeemed before your eyes. With every word you can feel the effort of a wise man rising from bed. His pean to John Henry, working-class hero, will make you bust a gut laughing and, in the same breath, gasp in pain. And don’t miss “Bottom Shelf Vodka…”, a love poem so piercing in its purity it will stop you from reading. Spread the word, this book is a long-awaited celebration.

     Geoff Peterson, author of 3:30: Nocturnes and Etudes

Weight 5 oz

Read excerpts

It’s a story
As old as work
The bad nights
The co-workers who
Labor harder to
Do nothing than
The actual doing
Of the job would
The dull eyes
Of young workers
Who stare at their
Cell phones
Pretending they aren’t
Even there
The frequent soliloquies
That always starts out
“I’m the only one
Who ever does anything
Around here”
The bitterness of
Stupid, little lives

Finding my profession
To be the hook
They hang it all

I have been doing this
For almost 30 years
Joined my union in 95
And have only just
Gotten by
But there was a time
When I thought
There was more for me
Than manual labor
Arthritis and
A creeping alcoholism
That found its
Magnetic other pole
In death

I had a fine mind
I got an education and
Even convinced
A few people that
I was worthy
Bought into it
Myself for
Longer than
I care to admit

And I wasn’t always
As good as I am
I was as much
A part of the problem
As I am now a
Part of the status quo

The best years of my life
Are gone and
The best years of my life

So, right now
I am awake
At 12 o’clock in
The morning
Drinking vodka and
Ginger ale
After a mandated
Shift on my
Night off
Tired and
In pain
And pissed off
That my best effort
Couldn’t fix anything
At the job
In the country
In the world
In the way
Things are

Please note
That I haven’t
Told you
What I actually
Do to make
A living
I don’t think
I need to
In order for
You to
Get this

When John Henry Went To College

The Swannanoa tunnel
Coughed up its dead
To gerrymander the Ashville
City council, de-gentrification
Was called for and the rain
Needed a working class
To fall on

John Henry went to
The company store
Applied for a Pell grant
And borrowed sixty thousand
Dollars for a bachelor’s degree
In philosophy – even the hammer
Told him he was wrong

“What are you gonna do
With a degree in philosophy”
The hammer demanded

“I want to think deep thoughts”
John Henry cried.
“Deep as the mines, deep as the tunnels
Through Blue Ridge
I want to study the meaning
Of life from a socialist perspective
So I can pin point the source
Of my angst and situate it between
Capitalist exploitation and the
Failure of the existential design
I want to challenge the myth of
The Nietcheian superman
As the driving force of history
And find my meaning in the
Social forces that put
That little piece of steel
In my tiny hand when I was
A child

“You just want to blame me”
The hammer said

“I want to study religion
I want to know Allah and Buddha
And Moses. I want to know Plato’s
Unmoved mover. I want Darwin and
Physics and the Big Bang
I want a better explanation of
The universe than the one I learned
At the dinner table”

“You think you’re better than me”
The hammer raged

John Henry and the hammer
Argued like this for
The next four years
John came home less and less
The hammer stopped giving him money
The holidays were tense

But the hammer was proud of John
And on graduation day
He sat in the 47’th row and
Clapped until his hands went numb
He hugged John in front
Of the whole family
And let him come home
Giving him the whole summer
To put that degree
To use

Come the fall the rain fell
On the working class
The student loan starts coming due
And he owed his soul
To the company store

Now, this aint the story
Of George Santayana and
This aint the story of
Harold Bloom – this is
The story of John Henry

So he puts that diploma
In his sock draw and he
Picks up that hammer and
A little piece of steel
And, as everybody knows
He eventually dies
With that hammer
In his hands

About the Author

Mark Borczon has spent the last thirty years working for the Office for Students with Disabilities at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He grew up in Erie Pennsylvania. Spent many years dreaming and roaming the streets. Started writing poems in the eighties. Published some in the ‘zine great nineties. Trying to learn his way into the online world of words.

Copyright © 2017 Mark Borczon

Cover photograph from the collection of Lauren Leja

ISBN 978-0-9993971-1-4

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.

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