Arts & Culture » Culture

Detroit poetry


Empty Structures
Anne M. Rashid, Detroit, 1st place

When there is nothing left of this city that you remember,
write it down. Pick up the pieces of old Hudson’s,
the last department store on Woodward,
the chandeliers that hung over the perfume counters,
the intricate railings that took you from one level to the next.

Think of the way your mother dressed you up to go there —
the gloves and hats and topcoats
that held you together on snowridden days.
Remember your grandmother’s vanity — how she posed
with each clever hat upon her permed head,
the hours spent watching her try on shoes
to give her a few more inches on the world.

When the entire building implodes
and the dust full of asbestos billows
up and over the heads of the suburban spectators,
think about creation, nostalgia
and the fabrication of mourning.
It’s true it stood empty for a decade,
and everyone forgot it until its improper death —
but what would your grandmother say now?

We charge ahead, beyond these empty structures,
holding out our hands to catch the past
falling down around us, scrambling in a frenzy
to get it all down, commit each piece to memory —
much like your grandmother in her shades of blue
played sonata after sonata on her baby grand,
the high society woman of the twenties,
drifting from one piece to the next
for all of old Detroit to hear.

Now, after one building goes, another stands alone
upon shadowy Woodward, leaving us to grieve
on lonely corners, glorifying memory
on out of tune pianos, making marks
upon places that once were grand.



giant tire confession
Kristin M. Hatch, Ann Arbor, 2nd place

i never put two and too and you to
four: elevator cities with kaleidoscope eyes & how

you haven’t ever been
central park

(we were beginning to look related)

that’s when i dreamed a touch of back for a bus token and her arms, another
all in mass they are beautiful at the crosswalk, i told you

the remote is under your left elbow
where it was before all this

why don’t you ever wish for more wishes


you want a round zipcode and the comfort of a geisha paying grace &
i want a city so mean that i forget how

your tongue felt on the backside of my teeth
on the good part

of bye



Samara Schmidt, Taylor, 3rd place

Inspired by Diego Rivera’s DIA murals

North East South West
The assembly line permeates the Compass
Workers frozen in ceaseless
Mass muscular production
Fleshy Goddesses of Milk and Steel
Providing slaves forever and ever … produce
To the White Gods of Fabrication … consume
Transforming Creation into facility … produce
Feeding … Breeding … a Virtue of Numbers … consume

Here in the haunting Silence … I am
The voice of Steel
The hollow ring of the Anvil
The Hammer coming
Down … again and again … I am
The Musical rumblings of the slaves
Motion, whirling, clanking, sparking … the machine
I am the ghost of Detroit.



Laura Moloney, Walled Lake, honorable mention

I, little mouse, lie awake listen
To the lullaby Telegraph traffic sound
In my mind I’m going

The muffler fell off
My 1967 Ford Falcon
So I’m driving the thing down
By ear, clutchin n coastin
On that Michigan Avenue Swing.

Teenage engine ripplin bat outta hell
Its radar caressing
This that and the
Topless tittie bars,
Tires! Tires! Tires!
And car wash motels.

A quick right, at Oakman and Ali Ba Ba,
And enter a Sir Graves Ghastly
Pot-pie afternoon monster movie,
Little mouse crouching,
Sneaking pounding volcanic heart past
The Rouge plant gigantic Godzilla
Mean smokestacks.

In the second grade,
As I recall,
Class trip lacey anklets
Trotting catwalks above
Fire breathing dragon breath
Fixing fenders to Fords.

After narrow escape rambling on to
Follow junkyarded John Kronk,
Like a yellow brick road,
Shifting like a musician
Through industrial pastoral past
Alongside my caterpillar boxcar friends.

My percussion is wrought
Outta broken leaf springs
Crunching metal over big bumps and tracks,
Hauling to the pit stop, Johnny’s Ham King,
For a cup a pea ladled by a
Cleopatra waitress, lips rimmed round
In crusty burgundy sex,
Showcasing hypnotic ham hock butt.

I love Detroit,
Long lost daughter drawn back
Like a perv to an obscenity,
Filthy childhood finger nails scratching
Stinky and secret alleyway bowels,
Leading to Vernor Avenue,
The Ugliest Street in the U.S. of A.

Sniffing the dust for chocolate chocolate donuts,
In a Willie Horton home-run crème dream,
I fumble through urban tangle
Weeds as big as trees,
That shade the burnt-out carcasses
Of grand ole homes.
A parlor hanging out like an exposed gut,
With flushed out crack-head
Phantom families intimately etched.

One suburban Sunday after-church drive,
Stepdad captain, at station wagon helm
Cruising n gawking at
Smoke runneled cinematic city sky.
I was just a little kid
Witnessing history,
A mar on time,
Like 1963 and John F. Kennedy.
From the back seat we watched the riots,
The epic buildings burning
— A drive-in movie.

Sometimes you get stuck unawares,
Not moving on.
The mind tiptoes to memories
Like electric flash sparks down telephone lines.

Now mouse lies, in hovel house.
Big hole in ceiling shaped like a crucifix,
Feels like a poltergeist.
Outside there’s a tree in an empty lot,
The saddest thing you ever seen
Standing with all his branches hacked off,
Naked before the glittering Ambassador
To Canada.

It’s not just me, you’d agree,
It looks like his mighty heart was ripped away,
Leaving that tree, embarrassed,
A lonely artery now,
Raw and pleading
To the pristine stars.

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