In that City, In Those Circles

By LAWRENCE JOSEPH

 

In that time, in that place, a few cars, a bus, on Belle Isle
seen from this side of the river, dark blue icy river,
on the other side of the Belle Isle Bridge Uniroyal Tire’s
bright silver smoke blown over the river to Canada,
time-bound, space-bound, a distinctive industrial space,
Ford Motor Company Dumping Station, the O-So Soda Pop
warehouse, Peerless Cement, railroad tracks on
the bridge to Zug Island—the smell from Wayne
Soap enough to make you puke—Ideal Bar, icon,
Black Madonna, blood-red slash down her right cheek,
Pulaski, Copeland, Home, Melville streets, City of Detroit
Wastewater Treatment Plant, two large sludge ponds,
two slaughterhouses, one for pigs, one for cows,
ratcheted up, the empire news, unprecedented the rise
in energy prices, armed forces placed on nuclear alert,
plans are being drawn up to occupy regions of Kuwait,
Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, surpluses deposited
in New York banks, so-called petro-dollars recycled
in high-interest loans to Mexico, Brazil, Argentina,
and not too long after that, really, millions of barrels a day
cut off again, British Petroleum declaring force majeure,
major contracts cancelled, the Rotterdam spot market
is soaring, the second oil shock fully underway,
Arc of Crisis, the State Department’s name of the policy
implemented to spread tribal and religious instability
in the Near East and Soviet Union’s southern republics,
intrinsically curved, the gravitational field, S-curved lines,
glue sprayed, vinyl top stretched and trimmed into place,
lead solder put into the crack between the roof and body,
fury of truth, its enigmas, its blinding illuminations
marked in the margin of Hayden’s American Journal,
Hayden’s Cosmic Ouija, the mathematics of its message
music, funky, sweet, Detroit music, on a multiple level,
the beat, deep, street-glazed, tempos extreme, churchy
sometimes, rhymes at the ends of and inside the lines,
music that is made for love, the first time we fall asleep
in each other’s arms, where, there, we are, and nothing else
matters, there, where the sidewalk heaves and is strapped
by weeds, front door boarded by two-by-fours, an address
only a 5, the other numbers missing, red-colored,
the dog, sniffing the rusted motor, picking up a scent,
“and these Maronite warlords,” he says—here from Lebanon,
my Armenian friend, long, late lunch, Grecian Gardens,
grilled lamb chops, green beans, roasted potatoes, a bottle
of Tsantali Rapsani—“they’re trying to force a tax on us
in East Beirut, to finance their militias”—Niggers Suck,
a sign, on the Southampton Street side of Finney High
the White Hoods hang out on, Black Killers, Errol Flynns
surrounded, switchblades, then gunshots, police in riot gear,
media coverage, front-page headlines, Free Press andNews,
the incarcerated, burned with cattle prods, hit and hit
with blackjacks at the Second Precinct Station, raw, still,
in the air, twelve years ago, the twenty-fourth of July,
General Throckmorton’s five thousand paratroopers,
recently returned from Viet Nam, authorized
under the Insurrection Act of eighteen-seven, M-16’s, M-79
grenade launchers, lines of deployment set up directly
to the Pentagon, a state of war declared, in that time,
in that city, in those circles, occasions taken to call out fact.

 

Lawrence Joseph’s most recent books of poems are Into It and Codes, Precepts, Biases, and Taboos: Poems 1973–1993. He is Tinnelly Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law and lives in New York City.

[Purchase your copy of Issue 10 here.]

In that City, In Those Circles

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