first memory

At the event when I couldn’t help but stand up and talk too much,

I opened myself up to judgment in order to speak the burning necessity that was bubbling up my throat, determined to be shared.

Taking my seat for the forth or fifth last time, a woman two rows back lifted her head and her hand to get my attention. “Hey”, she said. “We need to talk”, she said. “We’ve met before”, she said. Continue reading

To Go Nowhere


I climbed the mountain not to reach the top, but to cross over,
marking each morning with a new little bracelet on my wrist,
with colors of ascending frequency to note the mounting chakras,
simulating an elevated state in the thinning air.
I love me, I want to be me…. but not this way.
This me can’t be alone with herself, this me is flipping through her hair, her phone, a box of cookies to avoid that awkward small-talk with the ignored inner self.
I didn’t listen to her, but I did dress her up, one braided bangle at a time,
with all the attributes of a happy soul,
if not a body to put them in.

Wasn’t it one year ago the stranger gave me that kite?
A symbol of my freedom, she said.
But she didn’t give me the wind, or the way.
And the girl I was rose with the sun in the place where the horizon flexed acute,
lifted her childish pennant and begged the coldest winds of Africa to do for her what that year had not.
And when the flag had failed her, she replaced it with another sorry charm.
From a man to a mountain- the talisman shifts shape
but is always rooted in the same hope: change me, heal me, make me whole.
They have all failed and they always will
unless or until the hope can become the desire to be me, even as I already am
clutching a soggy bracelet of sincere hopes faded in chlorine and concessions.
I don’t feel like swimming any more.
Maybe I want to write-
first draft, fuck it-
and to go nowhere that I am not already.

Reparations 313

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[Originally published by ModelD. All photos depict homes that were occupied when they were acquired by Detroit Land Bank Authority but are now vacant.]

Detroit’s greatest paradox is its abundance of space and its scarcity of quality housing.

The massive stock of single family homes once sustained double the current population. Yet each year, more Detroit homeowners become renters, squatters or altogether homeless. The problem is complex but the solutions do not have to be: what is needed is an immediate, scalable solution that will create stability and an upward trajectory for people, property, and the city at large.

It’s time for Detroit to reinvent urban homesteading by selling homes to their current residents. Continue reading

It’s offensive if I’m offended

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Yesterday I took a trip to my small local grocery store and got a call from my best friend about her amazing time at the Women’s march in DC. She was giddy with excitement and we shared about our hopes and ideas and experiences participating in the actions of the day. As I left the store, a man who was checking out looked up at me and said “You’re so cute, so beautiful, what’s your name?” I looked at him but made no reaction and continued my phone call. He followed me out of the store and repeated the same line. I turned and said “I’m on the phone” and he said- loudly- “Oh, she’s too loud though, that’s too bad.” I was livid. I was almost to my car at that point but I turned back and approached him and said loudly: “You are incredibly rude. You are being extremely offensive.” His provocation had worked in getting me to talk to him so he went back to trying to be charming “You are so beautiful, so cute, what’s your name?” I repeated that he was being offensive and he said “No I’m not! I’m not offensive.” to which I shouted “It’s offensive if I’m offended!” Continue reading

They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds

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Above the land, exposed and hard
they’re aching just for touch.
They chase a thousand beaded dreams
but never have enough.

When aching grows, it overflows-
a sharp and biting cuss,
In our eyes, their reflection,
so, they tried to bury us

Inverted dome, we made it home-
a womb beneath the crust.
We bore so deep, in waking sleep,
like seeds with waterlust.

And when the river didn’t sate
We dug still lower wells,
unbudded branches lay in wait-
those fallow patient cells.

From depth restrained, and dark contained-
no count of nights gone by-
until that time, again we rise
roots first, and then the sky.

This poem is written as a message of solidarity from Detroit to Standing Rock, with particular recognition for the Pueblo Camp who taught me the significance of building shelter underground in the womb of the earth.

Reflections on Standing Rock

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“The battle has just begun. I will stand to protect the water, the land. I am asking each of you to come stand with us.” -LaDonna Brave Bull Allard

what it was like

I came to Standing Rock in answer to this call. I wanted to lend my energy to the beautiful movement that is being borne out of the glaring act of violence which is the Dakota Access Pipeline. I wanted to learn from those who were standing up to the environmental status quo. I wanted to spend my Thanksgiving in honor of native people rather than over a full plate of willful avoidance back home. The trip was less than a week, with two full days’ driving time, and yet it was a transformative experience. I have the tendency to romanticize and I don’t want to create the idea that it was some sort of fairy tale but in so many ways the place and the movement that is Standing Rock is entirely beautiful. The people, the attitude of work and service, the prayers, the songs, the hope, the solidarity, the reverence to the natural elements- it was all beautiful. I and many others came by choice but, at its heart, this movement is an obligatory act of self-preservation for the Dakota/Lacota/Natoka people. The camp and the movement that drives it is borne out of the very real threat that is the Dakota Access Pipeline. What follows are my observations from my short time at Oceti Sakowin camp. Continue reading

A Patriot is Born- Hamtramck, USA

 

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As a multigenerational caucasian-American, I have lived my life in a position of privilege relative to many other Americans. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, most of mine have been met, and I enjoy the luxury of being able to quibble and complain about relatively minor offenses. It’s always been hard for me to really wrap my head and my heart around a positive notion of America. I usually hedge. I focus on our racist past towards native peoples, african-americans, non-christians and non-whites. I focus on our shortcomings in health care, environmentalism and education relative to other countries. I focus on our ego-driven militancy and subversion of other governments. It’s hard to feel the love.

But, since I moved to Hamtramck, I become unexpectedly and enthusiastically more patriotic than ever. I love that this community exists, I love that it exists in America, I love that I get to be a part of it.


Continue reading

Mulberry Grass

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Oh I would walk with you
through the mulberry grass
’til our toes were painted blue
and your fingers brush my hand.

Sit me down by the tree
when our legs don’t want to stand.
You can strum, I will sing
in our new two person band.

But you don’t play that song,
not for me,
not anymore.
I wonder
what the music all was for.

Let’s just let the hours go
though the bird calls in the day.
Let me feel, with eyes still closed
that you’re mine and here to stay.

But you don’t spend you time,
not like that,
not anymore
I wonder
what the magic all was for

Goodbye Goodwell’s

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The following is a conversation that my friend Margo Dalal and I had about the closing of Goodwell’s Market. 

Michele: “Pocket sandwich with avocado and cheese.” For an indecisive person, figuring out lunch can be a difficult prospect. What I loved about Goodwell’s is that I always knew what to order and, when lunchtime rolled around, I always knew where I wanted to go. So when Goodwell’s closed its doors abruptly and without explanation about a month ago, it left a bad taste left in my mouth. And if the conversations I’ve had with dozens of other Detroiters this past month are any indication, I’m not the only one feeling a little hurt, a little sad, and a little hungry for more than what we got when Goodwell’s went goodbye.

Margo: I am not angry that Goodwell’s closed, I am upset that I could not help, even if I wanted to. I am sad that there is one less place where Detroiters, new and old, could come together for an affordable and healthy snack. One reason I really loved Goodwell’s was the diversity in their customers. I loved to eat there and people watch, have a nice conversation with a kind senior gentleman, or sit outside and spontaneously see people I love.

Michele: First let me say that Goodwell’s doesn’t owe me anything, not really. They were a for-profit business that gave me what I paid for every time and more. But, while there is no explicit violation, an unspoken social contract was broken with this abrupt departure. When a business establishes itself as a gathering space for community, when it becomes a mainstay of affordable, healthy, mindful food, we come to rely on it and that trust should be rewarded with open communication. Continue reading