In order to be as free as I possibly can, in my own imagination, I can’t take positions that are closed. Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it…..
You were carried on your father’s shoulders
marching in Detroit’s picket lines
in the same year you were learning to run
from the word “union”.
That is only half of the reason
I am writing this from another city,
the 12th story window of our hotel room
where you pointed to the square
where the crowds would gather their signs in 20 below weather,
gray coats, gray hair, even on the young folks
but red hearts, engines built to outlast any factory design.
You always said the word “Michigan” like sweetest prayer.
Driving through the back roads near Lansing
I knew you would murder anyone in the car who made fun
of the plastic deer lawn ornaments.
You taught me good taste
is respecting good people
who keep the oven open in the winter to fight the overpriced cold.
We both believe good poems should come with that kind of heat.
But yours can convince a room full of 500 anarchist queers
to feed the plums of their hearts
to an old man who wakes at 6am every morning,
drives to the public school
to watch the janitor raise the American flag.
Everything I know about class
I learned from your lipstick color: Red State.
I still find it on my neck sometimes, pooling near my collarbone,
a lake big as the ocean
without the tide to bring you back to the shore.
You were never sure about me.
You watched all my pick-up lines drop things.
But I don’t play that game anymore.
I spend all of my time learning to bake a casseroles
in case the neighbor gets sick.
And I’ve already hung all my secrets on the clothesline.
You can look out the window
and see the last time I lied through my teeth
my jaw wouldn’t let me sleep for six months.
My conscience buzzed like one of those
terrible mosquito killing zapper machines.
I’ve finally learned love is a screened-in porch.
I’ve finally learned love is knowing everybody’s name
in the town of your reasons to run.
I’ve finally learned love prays
it won’t always live paycheck to paycheck,
but it always does,
even when it’s got “forever” on its lips.
Forever ago you gave me a doorknob as a gift.
I am still learning to be an open road
to the tree that can be climbed to safety.
I think we’re both still learning to believe
the union can always win. Michigan,
we all have hearts that wanna be old pick up trucks
permanently parked in someone’s front yard.
I’m gonna keep fixing mine up,
and someday you’re gonna be sure as the sun
it’s never gonna run.