I want to walk on the bottom of the ocean,
that is where I am from,
all of my ancestors living in one house
in the middle of the black sea,
at the mouth of a trench that leads to the center of the earth.
Every night after work their calls could deafen every city on the map;
their screams forming into matter
that clogs my arteries and hardens my liver
each day trying to drag me back home.
on his deathbed,
documentary crew turning
each breath to celluloid.
They hand him a harmonica,
play us one of the hits,
just one last time, the producer speaks,
his voice full of gravel and greed.
It's barely recognizable
and one of the boom mics isn't working.
It don't matter anyways;
you couldn't pay me to watch,
Even though, I know we all stop at car crashes
in these United States of America
and this is what we have become.
Is it a poet's job to recite the news?
Tonight at Nine, This is a history of us.
I got so many friends in Chicago,
place can't do me no harm.
Our world; a big old factory,
no longer connected to anything
except for the electrical grid
and a changing concrete maze.
Only this is true: your dreams
and the cold hard ground.
Take my hand, we'll break
into the plant manager's office,
on the weekend, while he is home asleep.
I'll hold the door open,
bring your tapes, we'll play them
over the loudspeakers,
and let this town hear you cry.
sings for all of the pennies
in the fountain; those dreams
of mine that didn't bother
to come true. Momma
don't know how to play
the guitar but I like the way
she holds it with her fragile hands.
Water is wide, I can't get over
in a key only broken banjos
with worn-through heads know.
I lie in bed, look at the deep
cracks in the palm of my hand
and dream they are interstate
ninety-four and I'm walking
its shoulder on a cool August night
back to momma rocking in her chair.
a kid in Detroit learns the easiest things to remove from a car.
These new ones are really just computers and imported plastic,
his cousin tells him as they lift a CD deck from a Pontiac
downriver, in the shadow of an abandoned factory, sharing a forty of Bud Light.
A Milwaukee woman fills up her brother's van,
with one window missing, moving to Des Moines, in the winter,
her fragile hands exposed, cracking from the dry cold and
and edges from the boxes filled with faded clothes.
In this rust belt, we're dead, and the color of dirt,
all we can do is shake our fists, beat the sidewalk,
until we fall asleep on the street when our bottles are done,
and the rats check our pockets for five dollar bills.
It's one of the mildest winters of memory.
This wind a rusted knife, wet and the temperature of lies.
In Saint Paul, at the liquor store on Christmas Eve, I buy as much
as I can hold and get ready for another year.
This Land is My Land
I will show you
where I'm from
or where they buried
the beasts that made me;
that row of pines,
skinny, on the blacktop's edge.
Old highway thirty-five
running up north,
to Saint Paul, a clot
the size of
as it throbs.
my iron heart
idles on the gravel
drive, leaking black;
the knee high grass
I had a dream last night,
it was so cold
and I was just standing.
I couldn't move,
my hand was on the worn brick,
at least ten stories high.
The feeling of walking over a grave.
I may have been crying,
maybe I was sober.
It smelled like grandpa
or an empty house;
dreams smell like rain sometimes
sometimes they smell like Milwaukee.
It was the factory,
some of the windows broken
but even in dreams,
nothing is being made.
Time is matter here
The freight train
Places are colors,
primary shades and hues.
I grew up in Gray,
a place only the freight train
knows for a moment
then rumbles on to the cities:
Midnight, Scarlet, Mahogany,