Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Joy Gaines-Friedler: Detroit

I once photographed Coleman Young,
twenty years the mayor – he made swearing an art form,        
talked in similes, said, 
 
Racism is like high blood pressure,
the person who has it doesn’t know he has it
until he drops over with a goddamned stroke.
 
It was the day my husband moved out
                 and took his power tools with him.
 
That night a friend offered distraction,
two tickets to Kool and The Gang.
 
What have the suburbs to offer me now?
The city feels comfortable in my hand
like a found rock. 
 
Coleman said, Courage is one step ahead of fear.
 
I think of the sound of factories in the voice
of an old boyfriend from The Cass Corridor –
cocoon of his attic bedroom, mattress on the floor, 
 
candle light and books in that long season of snow
shining in the window – Coleman's city –
 
Canada faultless in the glass towers along the river.
 
Come on – celebrate good times…
 
The word Renaissance is painted across this city’s 
solid surface. The flourish hides its wounds.

Diego Rivera mural (detail), photograph by Joyce Gaines-Friedler
Diego Rivera mural (detail), photograph by Joyce Gaines-Friedler

Joy Gaines-Friedler is a poet and photographer who lives in Detroit.

Poem and photographs copyright 2021 Joy Gaines-Friedler

12 comments on “Joy Gaines-Friedler: Detroit

  1. Aimee Ergas
    February 17, 2021

    Perfect pairing with Diego Rivera. I bet you and he and Frida would be friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. NancyS
    February 17, 2021

    Great poem Joy. Love the Coleman Young descriptions/quotes and your photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rosemaryboehm
    February 17, 2021

    What a wonderful POEM!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joy Gaines Friedler
      February 17, 2021

      Thank you Rosemary!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Alexander Morgan
    February 17, 2021

    As a person “from away,” I’m never quite sure how to claim Detroit, if I can, if I want to, but this poem grabs me. I’d like to share that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joy Gaines Friedler
      February 17, 2021

      Thank you Alex. Detroit has a way of getting under your skin. So much pain. So much beauty.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Deborah Weatherston
    February 17, 2021

    I love the imagery that you use to create with just a few words and in the same breath- a feeling of vulnerability, power, fragility, strength, loss, recovery – personally, and about a place, Detroit.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joy Gaines Friedler
      February 17, 2021

      Thank you for such a close reading – and your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Patricia Barnes
    February 17, 2021

    Detroit deserves a wonderful poet like Joy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joy Gaines Friedler
      February 17, 2021

      Such a wonderful city – filled with talented artists. Including poets like you Pat Barnes.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Beth Myers
    February 17, 2021

    Alongside personal, parallel memories, I’m swooning in the reverie here Beautifully put.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joy Gaines Friedler
      February 17, 2021

      Thank you Beth! “celebrate good times” – why not?

      Liked by 1 person

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