The Policy Path of Detroit’s Destruction

As published in Riverwise magazine

Detroit is a city with so much to lose and so little to spare.

Popular narratives which attempt to describe Detroit’s struggles resort to abstract reasoning, such as the ‘invisible hand of market forces’. Other times, corporate submission to global market trends is blamed for the exodus of a once-thriving auto industry. However, when we trace the path of exploitative policy decisions at the state level in recent decades, we see that our own state laws have aided, if not forced, the hand of destruction. Detroit has suffered an inverted urban renewal process, through which homes are turned to blight, homeowners to renters, and neighborhoods to fields. This is the story of a predatory scheme that Michigan lawmakers, developers and special interests have devised during Detroit’s recent history.

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Gravity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What god or scientific force
would put the sun and moon on course
to grant us an eclipse?
What trick of serendipity
would let their size appear to be
a truly perfect fit?

On other days, they squared with Mars,
or some assembly of stars
in geometric rhyme.
The triangle protracts through space
then flattens, and, with winking face,
to you they do align.

A lesser mind would lie prostrate
awaiting predetermined fate
for minor mortals, we.
Another might dismiss as chance
this rare celestial mating dance
and fail to truly see.

But you and I stared at the sun,
unblinded, and refused to run
from night that dawned in day.
The lightless moon haloed in flame
subdued the sun, a moment, tame
but we were unafraid.

They say a line’s the shortest path
between two points, but space is vast
and beauty’s in the arc.
And those who travel by ellipse
are grander for their scenic trips
slow twirling in the dark.

Clock hands anchor from one point
two travelers, a single joint
who intersect in time.
Coincidence is all life is
and love’s the greatest gift it gives
for those who let it shine.

What randomness or holy act
Would put me back along your path
to tug your gravity?
I’ll travel ’round the sun again
But this time, I’ll be hand in hand
with he who’s chosen me.

Hamtramck Water Woes

Also published in the Hamtramck Review

One thing that unites all Hamtramck residents is our distress over our water bills. Bills seem to get higher and higher every year, even as we confront challenges to the quality of our water. This year, Hamtramck has simultaneously shifted toward automated water meter while reducing our ability to lower our bills by saving water. Long-standing issues are being aggravated by the threat of lead contamination and the risk of water shutoffs for those who can’t afford to meet the growing costs.

Have you ever taken the time to truly understand your water bill? You might be surprised that the biggest part of the bill is the not the water usage itself, but the sewerage charge. Next there is the water charge and, lastly, a mysterious sanitation fee, which is actually a garbage pick-up fee which some claim to be a “double tax,” since it is already covered by property taxes. Hamtramck has an ordinance which prohibits residents from challenging their water bills, so the only true choice you have is to pay or not pay, to have water or not.

In my own home, I analyzed the historical usage and costs. I found that the measured water usage in my home was the same in 2006, 2010 and 2016. The usage was the same but the cost went up from 230 in 2006, to $341 in 2010, to a whopping $676 in 2016! The increase may have been somewhat obscured by the transition from quarterly to monthly billing in 2014, but the total annual cost increased even as the individual bills went down. Continue reading

Election Day

I woke up at 6am. Very tired. I had gone to be at 2 or maybe 3 while Molly, Evan and an affable neighbor sat at the dining room table stickering and cutting papers like elves and manipulating spreadsheets. One of the elves left me a present at the bottom of the stairs- it was my assignment for which polling locations I needed to go to put down signs with my name on them. Temporary billboards.

The polls open at 7am and we wanted to have volunteers at every polling place with literature in hand, but there are over 30 locations and 13 hours of voting, so we had nowhere near total coverage. The signs would have to do.

I took a moment to sit on my front porch step and take it all in. It was dark and quiet still, I knew it would be a long day.

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Margo

Video

Its a long way between can and do.
You’re at the strange age- not young but so new-
staring at the vastness of space from your mattress on the floor,
Praying for that small grace to rise once more.

Work another long day that ain’t working for you.
Bringing home that minimum wage is the least you can do.
Don’t you know that pain doesn’t pay-
check your baggage at the door.
Building up that small strength to smile once more

Hey Margo-o-o, its OK
you’re feeling low-low-low, so lonely.
Baby girl, you know that it happens
just sit tight till it passes.
And don’t forget its OK to be lonely.

It’s another shit date that you’re gritting through.
Hopes were high, but, no way- this cupid don’t shoot.
Can you jump your heart into beating?
Ain’t it feeling any more?
Holding out that small faith to love once more.

Hey Margo-o-o, its OK
you’re feeling low-low-low, so lonely.
Baby girl, you know that it happens
just sit tight till it passes.
And don’t forget its OK to be lonely.

(Courage my friend, you do not walk alone)

Flower, Honor, Tenor

Video

My baby gardens at night,
She gets that midnight dirt inside of her fingernails.
I wonder what it feels like
To hear the secrets of the earth that she never tells.
And so what- maybe she’s crazy,
to spend her time creating beauty she’ll never see.
But when the moon hits the sky
I wanna find her, wanna flower, wanna garden at night.

My baby prays to the light,
She gets those noonday rays on back of her eyeball lids.
I wonder what it feels like
To see the majesty of god in the roy-g-biv.
And so what- maybe she’s crazy,
to give her sight to a divine that will make her blind.
But with the sun in my eye,
I wanna find her, wanna honor, wanna pray to the light.

My baby sings through the fright,
she’s got the note antidote for those salty tears.
I wonder what it feels like,
to know the lullaby that tucks in your deepest fears.
And so what- maybe she’s crazy,
to chose the serenade instead of the fight or flight
But when the terror runs high
I wanna find her, wanna tenor, wanna sing through the fright.

Mama Song

Video

My mama knows when I am aching,
she can feel it in her soul.
My mama knows the smile I faking,
when I’ve got nowhere to go.

And in my older years, it’s hard to keep my pride up on the shelf.
But mama gives it when I ask her for some help.

(She tells me)
Show me where it hurts,
so I know exactly where to send my love.
Show me where it hurts,
so I know exactly where to send my love.

I wanna feel the peace awaken-
shadows fading from our eyes.
I wanna stop the earth from shaking-
separate the truth from lies.
But, with these recent fears, it’s hard enough to trust in my own self.
And so I seek her when I’ve got nobody else.

(She tells me)
Show me where it hurts,
so I know exactly where to send my love.
Show me where it hurts,
so I know exactly where to send my love.

Mama Mama Calling.
Mama Mama Crying .
Mama Mama Calling.
Bring Your Love To Me.

(And she’ll say)
Show me where it hurts,
so I know exactly where to send my love.
Show me where it hurts,
so I know exactly where to send my love.

All the Love is

Video

All the love is stronger, now-
I call you sisters and brothers.
And, I’m not saying that it’s easy, somehow,
but I don’t believe there are others.

All the dark is softer, now-
I glide right over the ridges.
And I’m not saying that it’s easy, somehow,
but at least I’m not digging ditches.

All the love is stronger now
All the love is stronger now,
All the dark is softer now,
All the dark is.

All the love is stronger, now-
I feel the beauty awaken
And, I’m not saying that it’s easy, somehow,
but it’s giving more than its taking.

All the dark is softer, now-
I stand up tall to bear witness
And I’m not saying that it’s easy, somehow,
but at least my skin’s got some thickness.

All the love is stronger now
All the love is stronger now,
All the dark is softer now,
All the dark is.

All the love is stronger, now-
I feel it rising within me.
One day it will be easy, somehow,
If we just keep on believing…

All the love is stronger now
All the love is stronger now,
All the dark is softer now,
All the dark is.

Meantime

Video

It’s funny how the what we do becomes the who we are-
a lifetime of tomorrows passes by.
And, flipping through my journal is like picking at a scar-
the pages thick with ink that just won’t dry.

Oh, I have tried a hundred ways to end this bitter journey.
And time can hide, but not erase, the truth that I’m still learning…

That wanting to change is not the same as being able to
And knowing what’s wrong is not enough to know what I should do.
Oh, but all that I can do is try, to take it each day at a time
and let it be enough
in the meantime.

I drew a line into the sand, but it all blew away.
Each promise to myself was just a lie.
And through those many years I never bothered once to pray
To buried in my fears to even try.

The free will I’ve been running with is feeling kinda costly.
In private moments, I’ll admit, the path has kinda lost me…
Cuz wanting to change is not the same as being able to
And knowing what’s wrong is not enough to know what I should do.
Oh, but all that I can do is try, to take it each day at a time
and let it be enough
in the meantime.

Believe me I quit my job, I quit my life.
I quit my love- I’m nobody’s wife.
I cleansed my soul in the Jordan River Valley.
I climbed the highest mountain, and then I flew a kite.
But I’m still on, the same damn page of life.

Cuz wanting to change is not the same as being able to
And knowing myself is not enough to know what I should do.
Oh, but all that I can do is try, to take it each day at a time
and let it be enough
in the meantime.