DETROIT GHOST CITY
In what has become characteristic fashion, the reporter’s irony is founded on the still more ironic (if unself-conscious) assumption that a city so overfilled with human misery can be written about as if it were empty.
— Jerry Herron, AfterCulture: Detroit and the Humiliation of History
takes up so much space!
It casts a shadow longer than your history,
broader than anyone’s field of vision.
Your inscrutable landscape
is missing any hint of a horizon, you
pink noise, static screen,
Even the fissures in your outermost skin
are hard to discern; your scars
only disguise your still-raw wounds.
You are a book left in the rain,
a headstone eroded and sunk beneath the grass.
no blank page, nor fresh canvas,
no return to unspoiled nature,
no pristine innocence.
No raw materials remain.
Full of treasures, refined and reified,
you are disassembled, left to rust.
are all but invisible, eluding
all scripted identity.
curious beasts: pheasants, foxes,
cryptids, chimeras, criminals.
Detroit is the most representative city in America. Detroit used to stand for success, and now it stands for failure. In that sense, the city is not just a physical location; it is also a project, a projection of imaginary fears and desires. This is the place where bad times get sent to make them belong to somebody else; thus, it seems easy to agree about Detroit because the city embodies everything the rest of the country wants to get over. [AfterCulture: Detroit and the Humiliation of History, p. 9]
If that’s the case, and I agree that it is, then the rest of the country continues to have a vested interest in Detroit, and should join its citizens as “we hope for better.”
Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus –Detroit city motto
[Translation: We hope for better; it will rise from the ashes.]
(The quote at the beginning of the poem is found on p. 83 of Dr. Herron’s excellent book.)