still I hail from smokestacks girders closed factories McLouth Steel’s poured slag turning the night sky and black river orange the tight typeface of houses in River Rouge Wyandotte the steel and auto tribes tribe of the alphabet job shops the fathers who set cutting tools on screw machines to make in multiples in sixes packets of ear plugs the men made deaf shift changes at three the line must never stop nothing could not mothers who taught us the alphabet shapes of oxen boats houses camels letters row on row to prop us up row the ideas forward the spear the snake the needle tooth Y W V U and F all hailing from the same tribe the same hieroglyph father oar or oarlock depending the alphabet not unlike the world we lived in once we lived there the letters trundled forth on their tracks boxcars shaking full of gleaming two-doors leather seats body by Fisher and yes I hail from unbeautiful artifice things that made us late (barred tracks flashed lights opened bridges) a tribe of shipbuilders iron ore taconite men whose hands would not wash clean the machinery and the machinery of the river the made thing more important than we were the things themselves not the idea of them I thought the letters books a different place the books were not the way out but in the letters embodying mirroring making what is the oarlock what the oar still I hail from the Grosse Ile crew team pulling on the river before school matching letter jackets forgotten on the dock the catch release their blades
Late night July, Minnesota, John asleep on the glassed-in porch, Bob Dylan quiet on a cassette you made from an album I got rid of soon after you died. Years later, I regret giving up your two boxes of vinyl, which I loved. Surely they were too awkward, too easily broken for people who loved music the way we did. But tonight I’m in the mood for ghosts, for sounds we hated: pop, scratch, hiss, the occasional skip. The curtains balloon; I’ve got a beer; I’m struck by guilt, watching you from a place ten years away, kneeling and cleaning each with a velvet brush before and after, tucking them in their sleeves. Understand, I was still moving then. The boxes were heavy. If I had known I would stop here with a husband to help me carry, and room—too late, the college kids pick over your black bones on Mass. Ave., we’ll meet again some day on the avenue but still, I want to hear it, the needle hitting the end of a side and playing silence until the arm gives up, pulls away.