On a visit to South Eastern Michigan poetry group
This is where we tender our poems
where freedom terminated and began,
where Rosa sat out her days uncontested
and Aretha belted out her need for…
spell it out by letter… just a little respect.
Henry Ford mass produced for the people
and Berry engineered soul from the heart.
Where the street names betray their provenance:
Normandy West, Custer and Manitou
and where, I imagine, Windermere
was a home-sick Cumbrian’s insistence.
A coffee house off the Thirteen Mile Road
in the great motor city is where we riff,
scat and play around themes, touching upon
depression and oppression, love and life.
How Karin took comfort in a hashtag
before scattering petals on the lake
and Eric shrugged off the weight of doctrine,
stealing into the gentile janitor’s
room for a religion-free cigarette.
And the guy in the corner, who has still
not given his name, bares the criss-cross back
borne by his ancestors, scars like the stars
raised by rebels and the white-cloaked Klan
desperate for some new kind of glory
star-spangled, fluttering tall, proud and white.
But this, this is
a mongrel nation of huddled masses
yearning freedom, who have brought to the mix
whole continents’ worth of riches and dreams,
to honour the past, set down roots for kids
and grant them wings to fly. We have our say;
those before, those with whom we share a name,
we the people, who aim to rise above.
How we note, in critique after critique
on love, loss, and hope as thin as a reed,
the poems we write and songs we sing
are one and the same,
and they shall not be moved.
John Irving Clarke is a poet, novelist and workshop leader who has been published widely for the last forty years. He co-founded Red Shed Readings in Wakefield and still follows the misfortunes of Carlisle United with an interest bordering on the morbid.
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