by Ian Haight




On graduation day, President Bush
gave the university’s commencement
speech, but when I left the campus gates,
Dad whispered Steelcase closed another
plant. Only a skeleton crew runs
the day shift, touching up paint
on machines. Rich friends from Detroit
offered work. How little college
had prepared me. Deceiving smiles,
a compliment laid for a favor—
so unheard of in the flats
of my Calvinist farm town. 


Maze highways, splitting,
twisting into Joe Louis Arena,
or the Windsor underpass—
NBD execs with bongs
in their bottom desk drawers.

The mayor pays mothering lovers
for his out-of-wedlock kids.
Crossing his mansion’s street,
a neighborhood of boarded up
crack houses, or the other way,

three-level Victorians
with four-car garages.
White, college-educated,
I manage Jimmy’s, a black
nightclub not a mile

from the Renaissance Center,
a wannabe World Trade Center.
My employees consist of two
ex-con addicts, a tall, long-
haired single mother,

and a bartender, usually drunk,
who pockets the money for drinks. 
They all smile, say I look
like Eastwood with my cigars,
the place weeks from Chapter 11.


Near the unrented upper-
  story rooms, brocades of gold
    letters on purple fields stream
 down five floors from a skylight
   to strobe-lit dancing—refrigerator

vaults of frozen meat below. 
  The steel door’s inside locks seal
    my office like a safe, the plush
 leather chair on golf-green
   carpeting—all of it crowned

by a black desk, almost as wide
  as the walls. Unpaid invoices pile
    next to an unused stack of fine-
 ruled yellow-pad notebooks—
   pictures of the boss’ Grosse Pointe

lakefront house under the desk’s
  glass top. The air conditioner’s
    secret password controls in faux
 wooden paneling turn the cooling
   pipes off at midnight. People dance

‘til 4. And when the door’s
  pounded by club renters desperate
    to cool the grinding heat,
 or thieving workers are axing
   the liquor room door since no one

has the keys, or the police want
  to know who’s in charge when
    renters refuse to leave, it’s easy
  to lock the double bolts, dim
   the lights, and pretend I am not there.


North of Shene Park, a burned-out,
Victorian-era mansion stands,
the gutted stucco building
overgrown with poplars. 
Near the brush-enshrouded
pavilion, a tributary flows
to Lake Huron; the night’s
Windsor skyline frames the ruins
of the once-palace.
A day waitress took me there
after tequila shots. We laid
our clothes down, dove
headlong into the water, hoping
for a taste of that old place, to touch
deeper than the car-filled
Saturday night streets, or the fifty-
foot lines of shriveling drunks
sitting along sidewalks cracked
with weeds—the street gangs walking
downtown’s boarded-up shopping
district, mugging any who don’t know
better. She swam nude easily,
comfortable with her unadorned skin,
but the booze flew through my empty
stomach. When she climbed a bank,
her eyes searching the ruins,
I was choked with pain, gasping
for air.


   Start from the streets of Ann Arbor,
 but by Detroit, the six-pack is run
       out. Buy another, slamming it, then buy

    singles at a corner liquor store blocks
later. At the wedding, sit on the roof-
     top of the Detroit Athletic Club. Toke.

        And drink ourselves red in the face,
      so high we can’t feel the ground
  when we walk, or our skin when we touch.

   With a car full of women, we drive
 to Jimmy’s, where, in the basement,
       we leave white specks of dust

    on a mirror—the only proof we have been
there, rubbing against one another. 
     We get our own booth, drink free booze,

        eat free food, kissing and feeling
      the women, free in their pink dresses,
  any way any time you want it. She wants

   me to come in, but I say no for reasons
 beyond self-respect, beyond
       anything rational or comprehensible

    in a state of unfeeling. For days
I question why it made more sense
     to stay with my men friends, smoking

        at a private beach on Lake Huron, flat
      on our backs, watching what stars
  the city of Detroit would show us.


    Live in the new high rise
apartments by Lake Huron: 
      a two-story loft and indoor gym,
   twenty-four hour security, windows
  looking down on the city’s shore-
lines. I pay the deposit,
        but my friend goes back
    on his word. It is easier

for him to stay next to an almost
    unlived in residence—a shooting guard
   for the Detroit Pistons. 
 Hand-laid wooden flooring, walk-in
       closets, and skylights running

    the length of hallways are all
deceptive; the landlord keeps
     a loaded shotgun in his office—
        the nearest grocery store, a beer

      mart. Risking an unguarded parking
  lot of broken glass and dug
     up asphalt makes sense to my friend. 
When the drunks across the street
  raise their bleary eyes
      to the color of his car, he leans

  close and whispers,
    My girlfriend will move
in. We can both sleep

  with herat the same time, even.


Get an axe to knock the liquor door open over there you can get a five dollar blowjob steering column’s broken I don’t have a window because somebody tried to steal my car she lit my cigarette between her tits the lap dances cost ten bucks I haven’t seen my father since I was born she has a boy but her parents take care of him he’s bankrupting the business with his sons on purpose when the cards fall they’ll strip this place to nothing take some money out of the register no one’ll miss it I fucked her on the tables after the nightclub closed I can’t marry her I don’t even like bangin’ her I can’t park over there my car’ll get repossessed


Another night of ice
    for drinks
       stacks of shot glasses. Doilies

beneath matchbox baskets—jerk chicken
    and jambalaya rolled out for Jamaica night. 
       Roadies for the Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band

wheeled in drums and amplifiers. The band’s BMWs
    in the back alley filled with haze from glowing pipes. 
       In stillness, the early evening bathrooms enclosed no

cigarette smoke; there was no broken glass
    on the dance floor, no beer or liquor smears
       to be wiped from tables. Waitresses sang

as they prepped at the bar. A busboy danced
    in the aisles. There was nothing to take
       a picture of. There was nothing worth comparing. 

The night’s music ended. Too tired
    for the tally sheets, I dimmed
        the lights, set the alarm codes, and went home.




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