Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Land of the Free

“At pet stores in Detroit, you can buy
frozen rats
for seventy-five cents apiece, to feed
your pet boa constrictor”
back home in Grosse Pointe,
or in Grosse Pointe Park,

while the free nation of rats
in Detroit emerges
from alleys behind pet shops, from cellars
and junked cars, and gathers
to flow at twilight
like a river the color of pavement,

and crawls over bedrooms and groceries
and through broken
school windows to eat the crayon
from drawings of rats—
and no one in Detroit understands
how rats are delicious in Dearborn.

If only we could
communicate, if only
the boa constrictors of Southfield
would slither down I-94,
turn north on the Lodge Expressway,
and head for Eighth Street, to eat
out for a change. Instead, tomorrow,

a man from Birmingham enters
a pet shop in Detroit
to buy a frozen German shepherd
for six dollars and fifty cents
to feed his pet cheetah,
guarding the compound at home;

and a woman from Bloomfield Hills,
with a refrigerated Buick
wagon, buys
a frozen police department Morgan
for thirty-seven dollars
for her daughter who loves horses.

Oh, they arrive all day, in their
locked cars, buying
schoolyards, bridges, buses,
churches, and Ethnic Festivals;
they buy a frozen Texaco station
for eighty-four dollars and fifty cents

to feed to an imported London taxi
in Huntington Woods;
they buy Tiger Stadium,
frozen, to feed to the Little League
in Grosse Ile;
they buy J.L. Hudson’s, the Fischer Building,

the Chrysler Freeway, the Detroit Institute
of the Arts, Greektown,
Cobo Hall, and the Tri-City
Bucks Roller Derby
Team. They bring everything home,
frozen solid

as pig iron, to the six-car garages
of Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods,
Farmington, Grosse Pointe
Farms, Troy, and Grosse Arbor—
and they ingest
everything, and fall asleep, and lie

coiled in the sun, while the city
thaws in the stomach and slides
to the small intestine, where enzymes
break down molecules of protein
to amino acids, which enter
the cold bloodstream.

— Donald Hall, Poem With One Fact1

* * *
“What we have here, is a failure to communicate.”

I wonder whether Dearborn will ever understand that rats are not delicious in Detroit.

1 Donald Hall, The Town of Hill. David R. Godine, Boston, 1975, pp. 13–15.

© 2011 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.