The Right Size

in Detroit, Michigan, United States on November 18, 2014.

They used to call it downsizing
-but that wasn’t very popular-
So then they called it “Right Sizing”
-but everyone knew it was the same thing-
And then they started calling it “Future City”
-but still we knew better.
And so, they didn’t say anything.
Silently they issued yellow tax foreclosure notices
And water shut-off trucks by the thousands
Like a drone strike time bomb.
“That’ll do the trick.”
You can’t hear them but if you’re paying attention you’ll know
that there are active forces of relocation and de-neighborization and gentrification
And this is not eminent domain, there are no relocation checks,
This is “your fault” and “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

Tear the buildings down once they’re gone and now we’re on
to a fresh start without those pesky people.
The perfect plan for a city trying to lose a little weight.

Now wait, this wouldn’t be so frustrating if it weren’t for the fact that there is a way out.
A really good, really reasonable way out.
You can buy it in the auction.
You can get your home and a fresh start for $500
But not if you don’t know about it.
Not if you don’t even know to look
Because you don’t have the internet and if you did, how would you buy a house with it?
Because your landlord wants to keep getting that check every month so he tells you “it’s all taken care of”
Because you’ve been paying your mortgage every month so why would there be any kind of trouble?
Because you never got a tax bill to begin with let alone a foreclosure notice,
let alone a solution
Because every time you went downtown to get answers they pointed to a number with four zeros behind it and said that was on you to pay
and that’s the only way

In the auction, there is no guarantee
You might get outbid in the first minute,
You might get a lesson in reality estate:
“didn’t you hear this neighborhood is hot?
didn’t you know Detroit is coming back?”
But at least this way
you had a seat at the table
at least this time
you were a participant in your own fate.

So that’s why we’re out there talking.
We start on the doorstep with some Good News.
Not that kind,
but the kind that says you could own that house
that you call home.
You could break that cycle of a landlord who doesn’t give a shit
Or the bankers who, like wizards, change their LLCs or their T&Cs and leave you no choice but to sign or walk
to an uncertain future maybe in a city that will treat you better
your baby’s toys left behind in the winter snow
We’re out here because there’s a way out
There’s a way to stay put instead of move out

There’s a way to get a deed with your name on it and some pinch of security
That you do belong
And yes enroll your kids in school,
say hello to the neighbors,
touch the earth of the garden
and for god’s sake fix those stairs.
You don’t even need good credit.
But you do need to know.
And I sure hope you answer when we knock on your door.

Houses full of families?
Families safe in homes?
Small faces at the windowsill
warm bodies in the beds.
That sounds like a Detroit worth staying in.
That sounds like the right size to me.

Suspended Disbelief


One night along a shallow lake
there lay a campsite, pitched and staked,
logs for a fire stacked beside
in silence under dusky skies.

None knows yet how this scene shall play-
with plans abandoned, hopes dismayed?
They may appear only to quit,
no hammocks swayed nor matches lit.

Perhaps they will not come at all–
cold hearts and feet don’t wander far–
his loving gesture left unseen
by all but deer and forest green.

But down the trail they did arrive
and all his hopes were realized
for she was beaming at the scene
this camp a castle, she, the queen.

They made their picnic on the ground
to serenade of fire’s sound
small talk and smiles between each bite
soft gazes in the shadow light.

The hammock, in its frameless form
would hold them close and keep them warm
and so, into the soft cocoon
with wine in hand, to talk and spoon.

Within the safety of the dark
they spoke the truth of mind and heart:
Why is it that we did not last?
Can future differ from the past?

So levitated, they divined
that love still held their hearts entwined
despite the scar of damage done,
they held the space and did not run.

Once cups were emptied, burdens spent
he did take her to the tent,
and there within their private cave
he kissed her until, down she laid.

From soft caresses, breath arose
they merged into divine repose
as sweetness mounted, pleasure broke
until each speechless word was spoke.

Sometime between the dawn and night
she left the tent to greet first light
her dewy mind became perplexed
for they had not resolved “what’s next?”

Not yet awake, no more asleep–
there charm can fade and doubt can creep.
What really happened ‘tween the oaks?
No dues were paid, no vows were spoke.

But there among the beaver dams
there was no need for weighty plans
she lay back down mind clear, heart bare,
so to resume the dream they shared.

Model-T Ford

Detroit rendition of Janis Joplin’s classic satire “Mercedes Benz”


IMG_2733 (1)
Woman waiting for her bus at one of midtown’s primary intersections with no enclosure or even a seat to accommodate her
Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Model T Ford?
The bus just ain’t coming and my feet are sore
worked hard at the factory til it motored no more,
oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Model T Ford?


Public notice of the record-breaking 2015 tax foreclosure of 62,000+ Wayne County properties
Oh Lord won’t you buy me a flatscreen TV?
The Fox Problem Solvers are trying to find me,
first they’ll pay my taxes, and then DTE,
oh Lord won’t you buy me a flat screen TV?

Alternative entrance to the Wayne Country Treasurer office, through the Greektown Casino
Alternative entrance to the Wayne Country Treasurer office, through the Greektown Casino
Oh lord won’t you buy me a night on Greektown?
The Treasure’s downstairs lord, so let’s win this round
A straight and I’ll love you; a flush I’m reborn,
oh lord, won’t you buy me a night on Greektown?




Park Avenue Hotel soon before it was demolished to make way for a new arena for Red Wings Arena, owned by Little Ceasar's mogul Mike Illich in one of the anointed areas of the city's "Future City" plan
Park Avenue Hotel soon before it was demolished to make way for a new arena for Red Wings Arena, owned by Little Ceasar’s mogul Mike Illich
Oh lord won’t you buy me a pizza franchise?
This whole Future City is passing me by
I’m hot and I’m ready for a piece of the pie,
oh lord won’t you buy me a pizza franchise?


An occupied house on it's last leg
A recently-vacated home with a tricycle still on the porch joins the ranks of Detroit’s estimated 30,000 blighted buildings
Oh lord won’t you buy me a house in the burbs?
This one will never get featured on Curbed.
Detroit does not want me, though I wanted her,
oh lord won’t you buy me a house in the burbs?


IMG_3435How many times
can we bend till we break?
How much strain can you take?
What’s your tensile strength?

Hold me, and then
Like a kite with no weight
Pull the line nice and straight
Out of sight into space.

If I pluck the string
Will it vibe and erate?
Will it snap in my face?
What is this song’s fate?

Road to Rhode Island

IMG_2991 (1)

Written in honor and memory of friend and colleague Steven Kolberg, whose battle with cancer and and dance with life ended today.

We drove to that strange state
packed tight in the car and buckled in
with greeting cards and a somber air.

There in the back yard,
I was surprised that he could see me,
and that he looked like himself
and that the lawn was lush green with life

It had the strange feel of a graduation party combined with a wake:
An uncle here, a high school friend there,
“Amy says hi” and “What’s your favorite beer these days?”

But there was a gurney on the yard with a thick body bag over it,
which turned out to be a kayak but oh my god, the thought!
And there was his comment about not being able to taste sugar or feel temperature or read anymore.
And there was a mountain of pill bottles just across the counter from the spread of submarine sandwiches and brownie platters and veggie dip.

We told stories,
and laughed
and paused awkwardly because what do you say?
This is his last party. Continue reading “Road to Rhode Island”


11084255_10205102549816035_8559766004208566109_n (1)

I wondered if the blood would attract the shark.
But even as I watched him through my mask,
even as I sensed his concentrated raw power that could be unleashed at any moment,
even when he turned so that he was
not just Swimming but Swimming Toward Me
my period had not yet come.

How odd that neither silent predator nor existential threat
made me worry as I should.
I should have felt the timeless anxious flush (that men can only know secondhand)
of near certainty that I am
not just Late but Late for a Reason
and the burden will be mine to carry.

Oh and the timing couldn’t be worse because, for once,
I have opened my cautious aching heart to someone (else).
Someone who, because he is a real man and a good one,
would never put me in this position:
alone, squatting over a Mexican pregnancy test,
considering impossible possibilities.

But here I am, yet strangely calm because,
no matter if the love lasts,
or the blood flows,
or the line forms,
in this moment I am loved and have loved.

And that truth,
like a breath of fresh air 60 feet underwater,
fills me with an unreasonable peace
in the face of that
mortal, lurking,
ancient, biting

when to say

fullsizerender-5When do you say “I love you” to someone for the very first time?

You shouldn’t say it the first time you think it,
because the love may change,
and even if it doesn’t, he may not be ready to hear it.

You shouldn’t hold it for forever in your heart,
because the words are a gift,
and if the love is true, it’s one that’s meant to be given.

There are sunsets and anniversaries and quiet mornings and fits of passion–
all worthy contenders in the answer to this question–
but where and how it is not the most important part.

So say it when the words spill out,
when not saying it is impossible,
when it is almost an act of selfish relief.

Say it when the love is so strong that you don’t know what to do about it,
and you have to share it.
So that it becomes yours to bear, together.


Let It Out

I shouted today

Alone on the bridge,
coasting downhill at a clip

I wailed- lungs taut-
as loud as I could.

I smiled to myself and
called out again

Just trying to let it out.


IMG_4252Under my bed is a box filled with notes.

Precious letters, far-flung postcards and silly valentines
accumulated over the years
from family, friends, exes, and former strangers.

Before even reading their words, I feel the pinch of yearning-
from the sight of someone’s handwriting, the postmark of a former home
a name that doesn’t get said any more.

They are time-stamps on old emotions.
But joyful or painful, every letter written is a snapshot of a truth:
“Somebody cared for me once.”

Beside these letters sent are cards-on-deck
blank notecards, fresh stamps, and undressed envelopes
waiting for an emotion strong enough to conjure them up
and spill out on them in ink.

After I’m done with nostalgia
I may notice those blank cards
and pick up my pen,
to send a pocket of feeling back out to someone I care for right now.

Then I stow them back beneath the place that I sleep.
Where they will sit
stationary, the sentiments of the future wait to be written,
keeping still with my old loves gone by.