From the Rust Belt
Jessica Jewell and Mary Biddinger have called upon the Rust Belt poets to rise from the great Midwestern scrap yard and claim their heritage.
I grew up in Jackson, Michigan.
Rust is my life.
MY COMMUNIST YEARS
On an afternoon in the fall of 1969,
the Socialist Workers came
to organize the proletariat
of Jackson, Michigan––the sweet idiots
who made brakes at Kelsey Hayes and tires
at the tire factory. As protests go,
it wasn't much: one hundred true believers
in the park across the street, stirred
by a ragged man with a bull horn.
They began to move on the Armory,
chanting One, two, three, four!
We don't want your fucking war!
My father, who spent the last days
of August, 1945, deployed to pack lettuce
under the cloudless skies of Salinas, California,
clenched his fists and I suddenly knew
life was dull compared to death
in Southeast Asia. So I ran to join the march.
My father came after me, yelling,
You goddamn commie! So yes, I am
there, in the photograph on page one
of the Citizen Patriot––the boy with the buzzy haircut,
running toward the lens,
bug-eyed, mouth open as though he is hungry.
Perhaps that is my father's arm,
behind the earnest woman in braids
raising her fist in the air,
his body lost among the other bodies.
Can you hear the voices chanting, or even
a single voice? This is the old story, it is
a dialectic, and the words
coming from my father's mouth
are wind over his teeth.
From A Path Between Houses by Greg Rappleye (University of Wisconsin Press, 2000)