A Short Dream

October 6, 2023

About this Poem 

I wrote the first version of this poem when I was 17 or 18 and, even though I rewrote several years later, it is still awkward.  In many ways, it is, and was, more symbolic than literal.  Because even though it is about the city of Detroit, out of all the cities I have lived in, I probably knew Detroit the least.  

It is true that I was born there but it is also true that we moved to the suburbs when I was still quite young and then to Indiana when I was 13.  Meaning that, aside from the occasional event or shopping trip, I spent most of my childhood in the suburbs.  Things were not, of course, all good winds.  As I think is evident between the lines of the poem. 

When I was old enough to drive, I went back and forth between Indiana and Michigan almost every weekend.  I spent most of my time there in closer proximity to the city.  A few years later, after the birth of my son, I moved to the Northeast Appalachian Mountains near to where my maternal grandparents lived. And stayed there.

I never went back to Detroit.  And I never went back to Indiana either.

A Short Dream

Childhood was such a short dream.

Michigan, all good wind and apples

giving way early to Detroit,

The hard city nights chain linked

and dangerous. 

Childhood was a dozen ponds,

soft with algae, reed encircled,

one big Rousseau - with no explanations.

We trouped through the wind-breaker days,

the almost time for dinner evenings.

That's all.

Later there were barbecues

and cousins coming.

Sweet purple and white nights

of wet grass, wide lawns, air and space.

We spun beneath all the pale moons until

we fell drunk upon wet earth,

toadstools, violet skies and Venus. 

The Church stood in its own

pale bright light.

Pastel coasts, dark communions 

and a light which said

Eternal Life

But all that I've seen passes.

Through yellow lit tunnels,

dark houses huddling behind

the street lights.

A clear cold world of dark cars 

and black glass,

A galaxy of light like China Town

at New Year's.

And in the end it was Detroit

that somehow captured me.

In spite of, because of

the rummage sale sidewalks

rain on the windows.

In the end 

It was Detroit.

Empty shops, empty streets

and too much light 

in too much darkness.

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