You can’t see it from the street
But Chapel of the Little Flower saves Detroit.
When the street burns– it anoints with ashes.
When the street is hungry– it feeds the street.
The homeless sing outside its doors
And the song carries up the alley
Like the flight of birds.
My America is all Detroit, Motown, dancing in the streets, my girl,
Tropical heat waves and what becomes of the broken-hearted after a riot.
My America is the ’67 riot and flames above the city,
My America is the arrival of The National Guard, revolution in the air,
CKLW news and the “murder-meter” rising.
My America is The Spirit of Detroit and the Joe Louis Fist.
My America is Rosa Parks and visits by Martin Luther King.
My America is where the South was born after the South had died.
My America is getting out of neighborhoods before dark.
My America is the auto industry and temporary-part-time wages.
My America is the war machine that beat back Nazis and fascists.
My America is the Vernor’s factory since 1866, Stroh’s Beer,
Jack Kevorkian and a suicide-assisted death at the end of an assembly line.
My America is rock concerts at Cobo Hall, jazz at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge,
Gang violence in the hypnotic haze of Thai stick and funk.
My America is all muscle cars and available parts.
My America is a union town with mob connections,
A road map that leads to Jimmy Hoffa, like a missing treasure.
My America is all Detroit, where my family lay in cemeteries around,
A border where half of me is standing and half in the ground.
Driving west down Jefferson East,
Already beyond the house of Edsel Ford,
The mansions of Grosse Pointe, Michigan–
Toward the antique wealth of Indian Village.
On this sultry Saturday night
Waves of mayflies jungle the streetlights
And drift like clouds among the trees.
Then Jefferson Avenue molts its affluence.
We enter the night of another city,
Burned out cars and abandoned buildings,
A black cop shaking down a black youth
In a liquor store parking lot. A crowd happens.
Heavy traffic stalls on mayfly wings.
Rap is blasting from every car.
When crack addicts look up to heaven
Stars seem scattered rocks of crack cocaine.
Upon the houses of Grosse Pointe
The mayflies amass, leaving their stain.