Made in detroit poems, p.1

Made in Detroit: Poems, page 1


Made in Detroit: Poems
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Made in Detroit: Poems



  The Hunger Moon: New & Selected Poems

  The Crooked Inheritance

  Colors Passing Through Us

  The Art of Blessing the Day

  Early Grrrl

  What Are Big Girls Made Of?

  Mars and Her Children

  Available Light

  My Mother’s Body

  Stone, Paper, Knife

  Circles on the Water (Selected poems)

  The Moon Is Always Female

  The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing

  Living in the Open

  To Be of Use

  4-Telling (with Bob Hershon, Emmett Jarrett and Dick Lourie)

  Hard Loving

  Breaking Camp


  Sex Wars

  The Third Child

  Three Women

  Storm Tide (with Ira Wood)

  City of Darkness, City of Light

  The Longings of Women

  He, She and It

  Summer People

  Gone to Soldiers

  Fly Away Home

  Braided Lives (republished 2013)

  Vida (republished 2011)

  The High Cost of Living

  Woman on the Edge of Time

  Small Changes

  Dance the Eagle to Sleep (republished 2012)

  Small Changes


  The Cost of Lunch, Etc. (A collection of short stories)

  Pesach for the Rest of Us

  So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Writing Fiction and Personal Narrative (with Ira Wood), 1st & 2nd editions

  The Last White Class: A Play (with Ira Wood)

  Sleeping with Cats: A Memoir

  Parti-Colored Blocks for a Quilt (Essays)

  Early Ripening: American Women’s Poetry Now (Anthology)



  Copyright 2015 © by Marge Piercy

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC, New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, Penguin Random House companies.

  Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

  Original publication information for the previously published poems included in this collection is located on this page.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Piercy, Marge.

  [Poems. Selections]

  Made in Detroit : poems / Marge Piercy. — First edition.

  pages; cm

  “This is a Borzoi Book.”

  ISBN 978-0-385-35388-5 (hardcover) — ISBN 978-0-385-35389-2 (ebook)

  I. Title.

  PS8566.I4A6 2015



  Jacket image: Library, courtesy of Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber

  Jacket design by Abby Weintraub




  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page


  I Made in Detroit

  Made in Detroit

  The frontroom

  Detroit, February 1943

  Things that will never happen here again

  Detroit fauna

  Family vacation to Yellowstone

  The rented lakes of my childhood


  She held forth

  The scent of apple cake

  By the river of Detroit

  The street that was

  City bleeding

  Mehitabel & me

  What my mother gave me

  Our neverending entanglement

  Ashes in their places

  II Ignorance bigger than the moon

  January orders

  We have come through

  How I gained respect for night herons

  Remnants still visible

  The constant exchange

  May opens wide

  Wisteria can pull down a house

  June 15th, 8 p.m.

  Hard rain and potent thunder

  Ignorance bigger than the moon

  Little house with no door

  There were no mountains in Detroit [haibun]

  But soon there will be none

  Missing, missed

  Death’s charming face

  The frost moon

  December arrives like an unpaid bill

  III The poor are no longer with us

  The suicide of dolphins

  The poor are no longer with us

  Don’t send dead flowers

  A hundred years since the Triangle Fire

  Ethics for Republicans

  Another obituary

  What it means

  How have the mighty …

  We know

  The passion of a fan

  In pieces


  One of the expendables

  Let’s meet in a restaurant

  My time in better dresses

  Come fly without me

  These bills are long unpaid

  Hope is a long, slow thing

  IV Working at it

  The late year

  Erev New Years

  Head of the year

  May the new year continue our joy

  Late that afternoon they come


  The wall of cold descends

  How she learned

  Working at it

  The order of the seder

  The two cities

  Where silence waits

  I say Kaddish but still mourn

  V That was Cobb Farm

  Little diurnal tragedies

  The next evolutionary step

  That was Cobb Farm

  They meet

  A cigarette left smoldering

  Discovery motion

  Sun in January

  Little rabbit’s dream song

  Different voices, one sentence

  Cotton’s wife

  That summer day

  Insomniac prayer at 2 a.m.

  The body in the hot tub

  VI Looking back in utter confusion

  Looking back in utter confusion

  Why did the palace of excess have cockroaches?

  In the Peloponnesus one April afternoon

  The end not yet in sight

  Loving clandestinely

  The visible and the in-

  What’s left

  Corner of Putnam and Pearl

  Bang, crash over

  Sins of omission

  Even if we try not to let go


  The wonder of it

  Marinade for an elderly rabbit

  Contemplating my breasts

  Words hard as stones

  Absence wears out the heart

  A republic of cats

  What do they expect?

  Decades of intimacy creating

  We used to be close, I said

  A wind suddenly chills you

  Why she frightens me

  My sweetness, my desire

  They come, they go in the space of a breath

  In storms I can hear the surf a mile away


  A Note About the Author


  Made in Detroit

  Made in Detroit

  My first lessons were kisses and a hammer.

  I was fed with mother’s milk and rat poison.

  I learned to walk on a tightrope over a pit

  where snakes’ warnings were my rattles.

  The night I was b
orn the sky burned red

  over Detroit and sirens sharpened their knives.

  The elms made tents of solace over grimy

  streets and alley cats purred me to sleep.

  I dived into books and their fables

  closed over my head and hid me.

  Libraries were my cathedrals. Librarians

  my priests promising salvation.

  I was formed by beating like a black

  smith’s sword, and my edge is still

  sharp enough to cut both you and me.

  I sought love in dark and dusty corners

  and sometimes I even found it

  however briefly. Every harsh, every

  tender word entered my flesh and lives

  there still, bacteria inside my gut.

  I suckled Detroit’s steel tits. When

  I escaped to college I carried it with

  me, shadow and voice, pressure

  that hardened me to coal and flame.

  The frontroom

  In the tiny livingroom of my parents’ house

  that my mother, brought up in tenements

  always called the frontroom, stood

  a maroon couch with rough itchy

  upholstery that marked my tender

  thighs if ever I sat on it.

  On every surface, wooden shoes,

  Eiffel tower, leather teepee,

  ceramic dolls in costume—

  souvenirs of places they had

  gone or she wished she had.

  She hated an empty space.

  Emptiness meant poverty. With

  money she would have collected

  paintings, objets d’art which these

  were to her, emblems of times away

  from our asbestos shack where she

  imagined a richer life. Out of library

  books, images like genii rose murmuring

  your wish is my etcetera. But she

  commanded nothing except my child

  labor rubbing, scrubbing what could

  never be clean, as factory soot

  drifted down like ebony snow.

  Detroit, February 1943

  When there was wind, it found

  every crack and chink in the walls.

  On winter mornings, the windows

  were etched with landscapes

  of frost eerie and delicate.

  Rising from my cold bed

  into the cold room, my clothes

  laid out for school stiff, rustling

  with cold, I would run to stand

  over the hot air register, hoping

  the furnace had been fed coal.

  My father’s cigarette cough

  rattled from their room.

  I smelled oatmeal. Once we

  ate it for three weeks of hunger.

  My clothes were shaped

  by other bodies, my books

  had corners turned down,

  notes I could not read.

  Rummage sales were our malls.

  My mother fed birds, talking

  with them as they flew to perch

  near her, leftovers, stale bread,

  crumbs. We too survived

  on what no one else wanted.

  Things that will never happen here again

  I remember hauling carpets out to the clothes

  lines in the yard and knocking the dust out

  in great cough-making clouds with wire

  carpet beaters like diagrams of cellos.

  Defrosting the refrigerator required much

  boiling of water on the stove and flat pans

  into which fingers of ice fell. Every five

  minutes water cooled and needed refilling.

  The coal truck came and down the chute

  into the coal bin the black rocks

  clattered and thundered. The floors

  upstairs shook in a local quake.

  The furnace with its many arms lurked

  in the basement and every few days

  clinkers must be removed, often still

  smoking, and ashes hauled out.

  During the war we collected cans

  and stomped them underfoot, handing

  them in. We bundled newspapers,

  magazines for distant factories.

  I miss none of this. They were chores

  not pleasures, but still I remember

  and my age hangs on me like icicles

  that bear down the branches of pine.

  Detroit fauna

  I am old enough to remember the sad

  horses that pulled open-sided carts

  loaded with vegetables and fruit,

  the knife sharpener’s whirring stone,

  the rag man in the alley, the closed

  dripping wagon of the ice man.

  They were always brown or grey.

  They walked and stopped, walked

  on then stopped, their heads bowed

  under the burden of dragging

  heaviness across hot asphalt, day

  after day for what scant reward?

  Police horses are bigger and glossy.

  I never pitied them when they

  charged us. They were the enemy

  grim as war horses that snuffled

  fire as they trampled the infantry,

  stallions bred to die on pikes.

  Even the glass bottles of milk

  were carried to our breakfasts

  by horses. The photographer

  went house to house with his pony

  black and white spotted, adorned

  with bells, but the working stiffs

  never had tails plaited or manes

  brushed out. I spoke to them

  and their red-rimmed eyes would

  turn to me. Then off they would clop

  clop in the harness we were

  each supposed to grow into.

  Family vacation to Yellowstone

  I kept a diary my twelfth summer

  when we took our first long trip

  since before the war. I wrote up

  every meal, a skinny pale blue

  child with sprouting sore breasts

  I slumped to hide. Always hungry.

  “For lunch at a place called The

  Green Frog I had fried cat

  fish, corn bread and mashed

  potatoes. For dessert I ate

  strawberry ice cream!! It

  was all very delicious.”

  Besides every piece of food

  I mentioned only animals. An owl

  tethered at a restaurant in Frankenmuth

  Michigan, an owl called Jerry

  a woman bathed and dried.

  I described a horse who whinnied

  at me over a fence in Wyoming.

  I lovingly listed cattle and eagles,

  antelope and elk, bison. Animals

  I trusted as frightened children

  do. My father’s temper. My mother’s

  anger. I would have run away

  with a wolf pack. In Yellowstone

  I decided my future as a ranger.

  I would live among pine trees

  and follow bison through

  the tall grass. We met a man

  who lived up in a fire tower

  and I wanted to become him.

  I wanted a tower not like Rapunzel

  to coax a lover to climb,

  but to rise up and hide, high

  above smoky buzzing Detroit

  streets, the tiny asbestos shack

  thrumming with unpaid bills

  and the marriage of the cat

  and dog with their unloved

  offspring thin as a knife—

  all of us with edges that

  made each other bleed.

  The rented lakes of my childhood

  I remember the lakes of my Michigan

  childhood. Here they are called ponds.

  Lakes belonged to summer, two-week
  vacations that my father was granted by

  Westinghouse when we rented some cabin.

  Never mind the dishes with spiderweb

  cracks, the crooked aluminum sauce

  pans, the crusted black frying pans.

  Never mind the mattresses shaped

  like the letter V. Old jangling springs.

  Moldy bathrooms. Low ceilings

  that leaked. The lakes were mysteries

  of sand and filmy weeds and minnows

  flickering through my fingers. I rowed

  into freedom. Alone on the water

  that freckled into small ripples,

  that raised its hackles in storms,

  that lay glassy at twilight reflecting

  the sunset then sucking up the dark,

  I was unobserved as the quiet doe

  coming with her fauns to drink

  on the opposite shore. I let the row-

  boat drift as the current pleased, lying

  faceup like a photographer’s plate

  the rising moon turned to a ghost.

  And though the voices called me

  back to the rented space we shared

  I was sure I left my real self there—

  a tiny black pupil in the immense

  eye of a silver pool of silence.


  The girl was closed on herself

  tight as a winter bud on a sugar

  maple, protecting what lay within.

  She imagined herself a foundling—

  secret offspring of some kind, rich

  parents, but the mirror contradicted.

  Her shoulders hunched over newly

  sprouted breasts sour as crab

  apples and as hard to the touch.

  Her shoulders hunched over dreams

  cradled within like wet birds

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