The Tower Journal

Wayne State University Press
ISBN # 978-0-8143-4096-7
80 pages

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          When 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.

Detroit Pheasant

From a window, the boss calls to us
where we load his truck with bricks.
"Turn around fellas—look."
A pheasant wades through the brown grass
across the street, vanishing
and emerging from the tangle.
A shed leans near a phone pole.
bumpers glint from the weeds.
Blocks from the old foundation
angle through the earth.
The pheasant paces his courtyard.

We have killed the city which lived here.
the hieroglyph of its streets and rails
has joined the ancient lost tongues.
Buds unfold on a dwarf maple.
A rooster hollers.

          And in the poem, "Lips" the river finally has a chance to speak

The torrent covers the ball field, licks
at the mound, fills the paved lot
to the latches of the sad, deserted cars.
Now, moans the river, I will speak.

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 would notice.

—Mary  Ann Sullivan

The Tower Journal
Spring/Summer 2015