Friday, June 22, 2012

June bug

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.

Inside Out
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
             the sink
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.


George said...

A great photo of Diane, Ruth, and I enjoyed her evocative poem.

Ruth said...

Thank you, George. The photo was taken in one of those moments you stumble upon and are grateful you can capture (even if you cut off the top of the window). I'm glad you enjoyed Diane's poem, which is very short by her standards but packs in wonderful imagery.

Unknown said...

All of this is astoundingly beautiful.
Thank you for sharing Ruth.
For offering and uplifting and inspiring.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, that's such a good photo, and also such a great poem by Diane Wakoski, Ruth.

Jean Spitzer said...

Lovely photo. The Scarab Club looks beautiful and your description of it and Detroit is beautiful, too.

The poem is lovely.

hedgewitch said...

What an amazing poem, Ruth--thanks so much for sharing it--and your introductory paragraph was equally alive. I do miss sometimes the pleasures of culture that the urban life hides under its folded brown wings--what an experience, to listen to this sort of poetry read by the author in a home made for its voicing.

Loring Wirbel said...

Wonderful to hear about this. Our problem in Colorado (besides fires) is a record miller-moth infestation. I wrote two poems about the president's motorcade to the Air Force Academy, and about panhandlers at freeway entrances - at least I thought that was what the poems were about. Later, I realized they were really companions, describing the life cycle of the miller moth. I will post them on the blog one of these centuries.

Maureen said...

Marvelous poem, the kind that just fills me up!

GailO said...

I just adore that portrait you captured! The lighting is perfect, making each of the blue glass panels look like a blue scarab:)

I was just thinking of your past posts on Detroit yesterday as I was driving and listening to a radio show mentioning the city...

PeterParis said...

Must have been some memorable moments!

Ruth said...

Deb, thank you. You uplift and inspire me.

Ruth said...

Robert, thanks, and I'm glad you enjoyed Diane's poem too.

Ruth said...

Jean, going to Detroit is always a mixed bag of delight, pain and hope. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Hedge, Diane's poem reminds me of your own poems, and that constant call to extricate oneself from another, or another from oneself. I love it.

What a beautiful way to put it, looking for the pleasures of culture that urban life hides under its folded brown wings .... Thank you.

Ruth said...

Loring, I've thought of you often hearing the news about the fires. I hadn't heard about the miller-moth infestation. But that was probably because your poems had not yet hit the air waves. I look forward to reading them this century.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen, yes, so abundant with images!

Ruth said...

GailO, oh I'm pleased you like it too. I think it's maybe my favorite photo of mine ever. And how cool that you thought of my posts when you heard about Detroit. Yes! I need to explore and write more about Detroit.

Ruth said...

Peter, yes. Imagine if Detroit had maintained just a fraction of the glory of its former days.

ds said...

Wow. Many many thanks for sharing Wakoski's poem. The image of her is gorgeous.
Sometimes I think that poetry blooms best in the forgotten spaces...

Anonymous said...

Ruth, before I stepped inside your post and immerse in the imagery from the meditative visual and Diane's wonderful poem, I was first drawn to the title: June bug. Why, that's the title of a most delightful film... Junebug, with Amy Adams, who got an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actress. Have you seen it? It's also about inside/out, as well as exploring themes on family, art, entrapment and setting free. You'll love it.

Stratoz said...

Shockingly I need to say all poets deserve to hang out by such amazing glass. Go Detroit!

Ginnie said...

I know how much Diane has helped mold who you are today, dear sister. I love that you continue to walk paths with her, side by side. Wow. What a privilege.

Detroit? It amazes me how little I know about that city, going all the way back to my youth. Why didn't we ever go there...even when I was a student in Ann Arbor so nearby???

Ruth said...

ds, thank you for that wonderful thought, which makes me think of Emily Dickinson.

Ruth said...

Arti, I have not seen "Junebug" and I vaguely remember hearing about it. It sounds like a lovely connection, thank you.

Ruth said...

Stratoz, yes! When art surrounds art, blending and crossing genres, it's fantastic.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Boots. Diane and I are enjoying these times, which now have little to do with poetry workshopping. I am grateful for her friendship. And I ask myself the question about Detroit too. It is still challenging to go there, because Don doesn't want me to go alone.

Louise Gallagher said...

oh yes. this poem, your photo, your visit and sharing fill me up -- with joy, beauty, peace -- no matter the decay outside, inside here, at the hearth of your creative space, I am full.

Jeanie said...

Oh, Ruth, I see what you mean!

It was wonderful seeing you at the Jazz Fest! That made my whole time there worthwhile!

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Barb said...

Diane's poem evokes memories of childhood. Your photo is very special. The window, expansive space, and figure to the side tells its own story. I hope you're enjoying summer, Ruth.

JeannetteLS said...

"nd 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"

Stunning in both senses of the word. Wonderful entry from start to finish. Boy, I have been gone too long. There is lots to read on your site, Ruth, to catch up. I also love the Goethe quote from your Father's Day entry. Roots and wings.

It's good to catch up.