|Diane Wakoski preparing to read poetry at The Scarab Club|
In Michigan in June we see lots of June beetles banging against lighted window screens and we also see them dead on the sidewalk like pieces of broken brown bottles.
I went inside one very alive beetle this week. Once a golden scarab that could have been the Paris of the Midwest, Detroit is of course now littered with crumbling empty buildings and brownfields, photographed and even relished the world over for its "urban decay porn." But there are jewels in the city that are protected and showcased by loving enthusiasts. James and Kim hosted a poetry reading Wednesday by Diane Wakoski in the heart of Detroit's Cultural Center at The Scarab Club, across from the Detroit Institute of Arts, where Diego Rivera's famous Detroit Industry murals glow. When I walked into the club with Diane, Robert and Heather the space lit by the towering garden window opened me up like a beetle flying to light. Paintings by students from the art school Lesley attended backdropped Diane's reading of her poems about movies.
Afterward some of us had dinner at the Union Street Cafe on Woodward Ave. Listening to James and Kim talk about the club I realized once again how little I know about the Detroit scene. It is alive thanks to the people who believe in its heart and culture.
Here is a poem by Diane that conjures elements of summer and Detroit for me. I have these episodes of inspiration to get inside Detroit. And then I get distracted by my university and country life a couple of hours away.
By Diane Wakoski
I walk the purple carpet into your eye-
carrying the silver butter server
but a truck rumbles by,
leaving its black tire prints on my foot
and old images the sound of banging screen doors on hot
afternoons and a fly buzzing over the Kool-Aid spilled on
flicker, as reflections on the metal surface.
Come in, you said,
inside your paintings, inside the blood factory, inside the
old songs that line your hands, inside
eyes that change like a snowflake every second,
inside spinach leaves holding that one piece of gravel,
inside the whiskers of a cat,
inside your old hat, and most of all inside your mouth where you
grind the pigments with your teeth, painting
with a broken bottle on the floor, and painting
with an ostrich feather on the moon that rolls out of my mouth.
You cannot let me walk inside you too long inside
the veins where my small feet touch
You must reach inside and pull me
like a silver bullet
from your arm.