I’m so Detroit…

I'm so Detroit I lived on Atkinson, Chicago, Calvert,Oregon, 
Fairfield, North Martindale, Linwood, Glendale, Monterrey and the 
Brewster projects.
I'm so Detroit most of those houses have been torn 
down or are in ruin.
I'm so Detroit the schools my parents and I attended
are gone.
I'm so Detroit I marched for Freedom down Woodward in 1963 
and against the War in Vietnam in 1966.
I'm so Detroit I was art editor for the South End when John 
Watson became editor.
I'm so Detroit I met my husband at the Detroit Public 
Library.
I'm so Detroit I remember before the Elm trees were cut down.
I'm so Detroit we returned light bulbs to the 12th street Edison's
for free replacements.
I'm so Detroit I worked Christmas seasons at 
downtown Hudson's.
I'm so Detroit I spent the 1967 riot/rebellion at my 
grandmother's 2 blocks from 12th and Atkinson where it 
all started.
I'm so Detroit I remember living upstairs from Beans 
Bowles on Calvert.
I'm so Detroit I remember walking home for lunch, 
milk in milk shutes, fudgeikkles and 
wine candy.
Maybe I'm not "so Detroit", maybe I'm just 
"so old."
You/we are SO Detroit!! We're so Detroit we went to Northwestern High School when the cannon was out front. We're so Detroit we remember buying White Tower hamburgers to take across the Belle Isle bridge with Mommy for a picnic.

Puyo

Behind the apartment do the dogs still bark? Do
chickens scratch around looking for
bugs? Sometimes they used to bring in a
truckload of hogs and slaughter them, the
whole family working together. Or was that
hogs rooted around and truckloads of
chickens were slaughtered?

Once or twice the ground shook. I
stood in the doorway and waited for it
to stop, afraid I’d be in the way
trying to get down the stairs and out of
the house with my bad leg, even though the
landlord added a railing.

I hope the restaurant down the street 
still serves a full breakfast of 
rice and beans with
eggs at a price I can 
afford. Three months ago I left 
on a short vacation. Now I’m
home. We all wear masks and disinfect
our hands and feet coming and going. Tomorrow I
will see about the food situation. For
now, it’s good to be home.

Moon Shadow

If I lost my body parts, I would not be
joyous in the loss. Already they are 
trying to
sneak off. My feet 
ache. My knees sore and stuff, slowing me
down. Words blur without
glasses. My lips are unable 
to sustain a good 
whistle.

If I could, I would be 
at the edge of the 
sea watching my 
shadow in the moonlight. But
the sea is far away. 
Rain clouds hide the shadows. One 
night I will catch it 
in my drive, between the trees,
before the too powerful 
streetlights
blot it 
out.

Below The Treeline

In the evening heat, we sit on the porch
watching fireflies light up here and there and
here again down in the yard. We pass the bottle 
back and forth as we settle
into the lethargy that overtakes us now at dusk.

Years ago, when our children were small, they
would run around chasing fireflies, putting
them in bottles. Strange to think about
those times, before masks, before social 
distancing. When
family gatherings were not on Zoom and 
we were together in the yard, sitting 
at tables laughing and playing 
cards. Passing the babies
from lap to lap.

As real dark sets in,the fireflies 
disappear high
into the trees. I go inside and 
set the porridge for
breakfast.

Graduation Party

My dress and tights were blue. My
shoes were black and flat. My hair had
been straightened.
We stood on the stage in the auditorium.
The curtain behind us was red. I was through
with elementary school.

We only had to stay until graduation was over. Afterwards, 
I went home with my best friend. The boy who lived 
around the corner from her was there too.
He was a nice boy, rather short in 6th grade. I
don’t remember his name or ever seeing him after that. Probably
because I was double promoted right past all
of my classmates and friends and into the confusion of
kids who’d been in Junior high six months already. And then
we moved to another district.

But that day 
after graduation, was perfect. Detroit 
winter cold, snow piled on both sides of the 
shoveled sidewalks and smooth
all over Deidre’s unshoveled backyard. We threw 
snow balls and laughed all afternoon. One
hit me in the face, the boy I can’t 
remember wiped it gently off.

Surviving A Pandemic

In the beginning, we 
thought we needed supplies for 
two weeks.
Family accounted for and hunkered
down.
Toilet paper and baking
yeast bought before it disappeared from
the stores.  Should have
bought flour, but who knew? Tulani 
came through with
ten pounds of whole wheat.
Ayanna brought vegetables and
fruits from farmers, meat from the 
butcher and bread from
the baker.

Initial driveway gatherings were 
emotional. We stood far apart
talking. Putting supplies on tables between.
Eating outside separately once or 
twice.

Celebrations continued. A birthday in the driveway. 
Another birthday and two graduations via 
zoom. Father’s day with masked visits. Ayanna's Cookies,
Tulani's cupcakes, Ife's cheesecake and Cabral's
doubles delivered door to 
door.

We began gathering for
game nights on zoom. Seeing
some of the far 
flung family
more often than before.

Three months later, fireflies appeared.  Evenings 
we sit, watching them flicker in the wild
yard, thankful we are all
still here. Waiting for the cicadas to
begin their summer songs.

My Aunt

She was tall and stylish even on
her 90th birthday. A
surprise party, family, old friends,
church friends.
All of us had a story we could have
told about a thoughtful word, a
gift at just the right time.  Maybe
younger family members would not be
as kind in their thoughts. She could be
brusk, speaking her thoughts without
softening them.

She grew up tall and awkward. 
Old photographs she scrunches
down as her height takes her 
past older brother Hugh.

A dressmaker friend convinced her she was
beautiful. Helped her find a style. She 
piled her hair up on top of her head, draped
her clothes so that they softened her.

Thinking all the time, but not bookish or
academic, she left college after a year to 
work as receptionist for her doctor 
father and brother. Lived at home with 
parents and a
house full of siblings.
She eloped at the the last
minute, before being sucked into a 
disastrous
marriage. The gifts and
guests waiting, she was in Toledo marrying
a dashing lieutenant. A different kind of
disaster.

Back home with her newborn son, she
never went back. Working for her brothers in 
doctors office and print 
shop and the church. 

In the church clothing factory 
she helped design clothing made from African fabric.
Movied easily into managing the Cultural Center,
first one and then three. Made trips to Africa 
to buy sculptures and see the motherland. She
became advisor and helper to a generation of
women, giving them confidence to fly.

What I remember is the time she told my
father to take me to Dr. Louis so he could do
something for my awful acne. She tried to
get me a summer job working at a grocery
store in South West Detroit 
so I could use my high school Spanish. My mother 
nixed that one.
The maternity clothes she brought up
to the Black Conscience Library when I’d
left home and was a revolutionary
librarian, pregnant with my
first child. 
The way she looked out for
my uncle Henry, sending him new sheets and
asking us to clean up for him because he
was too nice a person not to. And he
was.

Once we were both in Detroit staying at the Training Center,
housing for church members. 
My oldest daughter had a new baby. 
My father was lived on the 7th
floor. Barbara had just come and was in her apartment. My
father told me to call her and when I did, she said, in a thoughtful
voice, he want’s us to get to know each other. Or be friends. The years blur.
The last time I saw her, she wasn’t as sharp, was
starting to fade. It was a family gathering at
her son’s house. We talked for a little. She said
all the boys were dead. She mentioned talking to her
mother, who had been gone for years and years. And
told me I had always been nice.