I took up Trumbull Ave. by Michael Lauchlan and began
reading poems about a crusty plumber in a half cellar, a workman
who screeds cement, a poor widow with starving children,
mechanics replacing bald tires, the city of Detroit burning, a
city's hopes disintegrating as the economy fails, I wondered why
a pheasant had been chosen as the cover's image.
The poems present stark images of struggling working class
humans confronting poverty. A father, once economically sound,
is forced to sell his house and endure the rebukes of his
daughter. A husband searches deep inside himself, craving
memories of his childhood neighborhood and friends, images of
workers standing in the street, nurses sitting in a hospital
cafeteria, his wife, a nurse in a hospital, relentlessly
struggling to save dying patients.
But, then I saw it. Images of nature recur in these city poems,
the wind, a river, the rain, a maple tree, a cardinal, a
pheasant, the sun. Juxtaposed with the decline of a great city
and the struggle of its working class citizens is the constancy
of nature. When the unnatural world that humans create falls
apart, the natural world regains a foothold.
In the poem "Detroit Pheasant "we see this.
From a window, the boss calls to us
load his truck with bricks.
"Turn around fellas—look."
pheasant wades through the brown grass
across the street,
and emerging from the tangle.
A shed leans near
a phone pole.
bumpers glint from the weeds.
the old foundation
angle through the earth.
paces his courtyard.
We have killed the city which lived
the hieroglyph of its streets and rails
the ancient lost tongues.
Buds unfold on a dwarf maple.
And in the poem, "Lips" the river finally has a chance to speak
The torrent covers the ball field, licks
mound, fills the paved lot
to the latches of the sad,
Now, moans the river, I will
Trumbull Ave. presents a
collection of short "moving images" of Detroit from the
1930s to the present. It captures exterior and interior
devastation: the demise of a concrete world and the wrenching
search of a soul for love and meaning. The search is not
outrightly successful. Still, nature is seen rearranging itself,
moving from an almost non-existent background entity in the
industrial age to the provider of hope for humans. If only we