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Blood Ties: Working-Class Poems

by Gary Fincke

The Darkness Call

Between our upstairs room and those
of our neighbors, across the arm's length
of the walkway, my father strung
a clutch of cans because he worked nights
and he needed to know, in case
of emergency, if my mother had
a darkness call. He counted on
the minister and his wife to be
sober the way he didn't trust
the couple downstairs, and those neighbors
had the only phone on our block,
one way to reach the bakery where
he worked an uphill mile away.
The minister's wife helped my mother
down the stairs. I was ready to
be born, about to open my eyes
on the great flash of the A-bomb
from Socorro, I was about to
hear my father sing the miracle
of his brothers all safely home
and to learn war could be won by brains.
Birth was a cord of rattling cans.
In every picture of the first cloud
over northern New Mexico,
my mother clutches that string and knows
my father will take exactly
six minutes to reach where she pants
in the pastor's car, waits for him
to grow large and white, his apron
twisted sideways like a shredding sail.



These bracing poems examine the "blood ties" that link us all, that bind us not only to our past but also to our present and our future here on Earth, where historical events, technological breakthroughs, and ecological shifts are forever changing our lives. Fincke has the unique ability to link global incidents to working-class existence, bringing the real relevance of those happenings into sharp focus for each of us.


I am moved by how deeply these poems engage working-class experiences, the intersection between the personal and the historical, the flawed, overlooked, and often forgotten side of our daily realm. Blood Ties memorializes the past and honors the life lived. It is a book to be remembered.
— Edward Hirsch, author of On Love and How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry

I have admired Gary Fincke's poems for years, for what they have to say, of course, but mostly for how they say it, through wonderfully surprising and metaphorical leaps of thought.
— Peter Stitt, editor of The Gettysburg Review