Across the Detroit River
c. Matthew Lee, 1998
America this is how you look:
Shattered moonscape of vacant office buildings of Detroit,
Plywooded movie halls of the once-hopeful,
Offering a dream and then pulling it back like a mousetrap.
Reduced to crawling empty streets collecting cans,
Painting over the windows of busses.
Housing funds used to reduce landmarks to rubble,
Begging those who squeezed to come and re-embrace.
Twitching like a junkie, clutching a gun:
America this is how you look.
Frozen plains of tilting castles, the freezing air of cryogenics
Whips through the canyons of a once-vibrant downtown.
Ive heard the soul music, Ive heard the thump-thump-thump
You cant obscure rot with plywood and awnings.
Casinos and gambling cannot conceal the smell of rotting flesh
Raw bricks and decay, street cars to nowhere
The glory of the automobile has taken us to the graveyard
Hearts full of grease smoking while asbestos rises
From the sites of demolished dreams--
The law cannot preserve that which the titans crushed in their hands.
Jab with your pen the empty windows of urban renewal
I smell the stank of horny conventioneers
Let the cold winds purify this ethos of greed
Let the temple of extracted sweat fall fallow and to seed
Crying from the watch towers of long-abandoned Charlevoix:
Demolish and replace with decadence.
The mind deprived of oxygen rhymes then grows still...
Demolish me inside Hudsons Department Store
If you kill dreams, kill me.
Ten thousand dumpsters cannot absolve you of your sin
Discarded bodies discarded buildings desecration
On your alter of opportunity your jail your guardian angel...
And wonder why youre naked and no liquor
Can soothe the pain, no music
Is loud enough, demolish and erase
But you cannot
* * * * * *
c. Matthew Lee, 1998
Shifting the embers of a city thrice-dead:
Walk through the ruins of downtown Detroit.
Telegraphs were once delivered to these empty tombs,
Fedora-hatted armies rushing to work through Grand Circus Park.
Remnants of a battle like the Civil War:
The lumber then the auto titans tightened the screws
And when the billie club disrespected Billie Holliday
In a porcine search for blind pigs in July of Sixty Seven,
Twelfth Street erupted in flame, Twelfth Night ceased to rhyme
Or matter, Upper Peninsula boys marched with fixed bayonets
Shooting into the darkness, reporting recoil as return fire from snipers.
We the people ask only for opportunity;
Here in America, we ask only for a playing field
To run on, a way to buy cars, raise families,
Feel the coldness of mugs of beer and no news
More important than baseball, maybe a Sunday sale
For lawn furniture, a little savings account...
Politicians can rob you blind, can revel in intrigue,
Sell their endorsements, shake down contractors,
As long as they provide this field, defend the borders
And let drinkers drink, let strivers strive
Militants declaim and sex addicts hump--
We can and will ignore a little desolation,
Were not lookin to bust your chops,
Just dont totally screw up and impinge on our private
But here at ground zero, in the arsenal of democracy
They fanned the flames of reality until even private dreams
Were shattered like the office buildings of Gratoit.
Now the subtle apathies of brotherhood were exploded.
Now the devilish words of division were said and not retracted.
Now some people said they had to move, and did.
While others remained, some burning the stores of the bloodsuckers
Only to travel to suburban malls to shop
And watch dollars drain like blood from their brothers.
While no one was looking, the body became a corpse
Fascinating, that with cities no one buries the corpse
It cannot be hidden, the gridwork cannot be erased
Like the criminal after sentencing, forgotten
Remains alive and penned and breathing
So the shattered blocks of the Necklace
Must be cleared, inch by inch, with dwindling dollars.
Opportunists come with their thermometers to probe the carcass.
Like Billie Holliday with an open casket
* * * * *
On Grand Circus Park, Detroit, 1998
c. Matthew Lee, 1998
Innumerable the people who have died or fled
Since these streets were laid, with opulence and hope:
Fedora hats, steam rising from manholes
Teletype, secretaries, switchboards -- all
Grown dusty, sitting day after day silent
Behind boarded-up doorways...
These buildings, empty for twenty years,
Will be demolished, for a casino
Or its parking lot. A mute jury of infamy,
A point in time, a gravitational field...
I salute you, captains of industry
In the ruins youve left behind...
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All contents of this page copyright 1999, Matthew Lee and Inner City Press/Community on the Move, Inc.. All rights reserved. For further information, or to request reprint or other permission, contact: Permissions Coordinator, Legal Administration, Inner City Press, P.O. Box 580188, Mount Carmel Station, Bronx, NY 10458. Phone: (718) 716-3540. Fax: (718) 716-3161. E-mail: email@example.com.