Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Hard Times in the Motor City: Jim Daniels

If you saw Michael Moore's Roger and Me, you're ready to read Jim Daniels' Places/Everyone.

Jim is from a family of auto workers in Detroit, and while he spent his own time on the line, he drifted toward poetry and now teaches at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He once visited a literacy program I was running in Watsonville, California, and he teamed up with a bunch of field workers and they turned out some wonderful poems about their working lives.

Like Tom Wayman, Jim has written a lot about work. His Digger poems follow an auto worker and his buddies through life on the line and life during layoffs. He's written wonderful poems about short order cooking and office work and clerking in a liquor store. He rocks back and forth comfortably between humor and irony and compassion.

May's Poem

"I want to write a poem
about something beautiful,"
I tell May, the cook.
On my break from the grill
I stand against the open kitchen door
getting stoned.

"That shit'll make you stupid,"
May wrinkles her forehead
in waves of disapproval.

"I don't need to be smart
to work here."
The grease sticks to my skin
a slimy reminder
of what my future holds.

"I thought you was gonna be
a writer. What about that
beautiful poem?"

I take a long hit
and pinch out the joint.
"You'll end up no good
like my boy Gerald."

"May, I'm gonna make you
a beautiful poem," I say
and I turn and grab her
and hug her to me
pick her up
and twirl her in circles
our sweaty uniforms sticking
together, her large breasts

heaving in my face
as she laughs and laughs
and the waitresses all come back
and the dishwasher who never smiles
makes a noise that could be
half a laugh .

But she's heavy
and I have to put her down.
The manager stands there:
"Play time's over. Break's over."
Everyone walks away
goes back to work.

This isn't my beautiful poem, I know.
My poem would have no manager
no end to breaks.
My poem would have made her lighter.
My poem would have never put her down.

I met this poet when we both did an artist fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center in 1991. Susan Luther is from Alabama:

Two Views of Howard's Chapel

a memorial to Sally Howard
constructed by Col. Milford W. Howard
at the North entrance of De Soto State Park, Ft. Payne, 1930's

by Susan Luther

first published in Poem; repeated in Alabama Poets and Breathing in the Dark


There is this huge
knuckle of God – at least
somebody thought so – em-
braced by a chapel. Somebody
sited the building right around
one of the biggest rocks you've ever seen.
It’s huge: way higher than a woman's
head: and outside, the cross-topped jagged block looks
like some – I don't know what – some stone-
skinned hybrid out of "Star Trek" – devouring
civilization like a cinema sarsen.
Really, who'd conceive a ridiculous thing like that?
At least it attracts the tourists –
and campers, I suppose,
on Sunday morning, all sweaty
from hiking the river path
to get there, in muddy jogging shoes
and dusty jeans. Their jaws must drop wide
open when they see the whole back wall and altar's
the behind of Old Granddaddy Rock
(They must think: "It takes an Alabama redneck!") –
There's some verse or other on it
out of the Bible, or something. Seriously,
you ought to see it – we'll run up
next time you visit –
those little yellow flowers by the doorstep – I've never
been sure of their name – ought to be out
about April. And the churchyard – it’s so quiet there –
blooms halfway to heaven, this time of year.



God Has All Ways Been As Good To Me As I Would Let Him Be
When the rough pines burr
their wind songs
God's just clearing His throat
& if His funnel bell should sweep
the mountains clean
eventually He will make them new
new trees, new mountains All things
the Lord hath made
& unmade He shall remake
Take me into your heart oh God
the stony fist
schist chrysalis
and cupped hand budding
to silk brush and a burst
of seed Lord
conceive me bear me
as the child
who would be found
Lord, I pray make me happy.
But God don't let me forget how I cried.
Thank you, Lulu for introducing me to this poet. Thank you Diva, for sharing more.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?