Motown, arsenal of democracy
Fog used to bloom off the distant river
turning our streets strange, elongating
sounds and muffling others. The crack
of a gunshot softened.
The sky at night was a dull red:
a bonfire built of old creosote soaked
logs by the railroad tracks. A red
almost pink painted by factories—
that never stopped their roar
like traffic in canyons of New York.
But stop they did and fell down
ending dangerous jobs that paid.
We believed in our unions like some
trust in their priests. We believed
in Friday paychecks sure as
winter’s ice curb-to-curb
where older boys could play
pucks, sticks cracking wood
on wood. A man came home
with a new car and other men
would collect around it like ants
in sugar. Women clumped for showers—
wedding and baby—wakes, funerals
care for the man brought home
with a hole ripped in him, children
coughing. We all coughed in Detroit.
We woke at dawn to my father’s hack.
That world is gone as a tableau
of wagon trains. Expressways carved
neighborhoods to shreds. Rich men
moved jobs south, then overseas.
Only the old anger lives there
bubbling up like chemicals dumped
seething now into the water
building now into the bones.