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Little Detroit, a prose poem by Michael Brockley

Little Detroit
by Michael Brockley

The factory by the railroad tracks where your grandfather built McFarlan sedans is shuttered, its windows broken. Its doors jimmied open by scavengers. At Independence Day parades, undertakers once pulled floats along Grand Avenue in their vintage Auburns and Duesenbergs while county fair queen hopefuls waved and tossed butterscotch candies to the crowd. For the city sesquicentennial, the married men modeled the beards and mustaches of Civil War generals. Your clean-shaven father let muttonchops stubble his jaw. Then won a sawbuck for the way he favored General Burnside. Tom T. Hall played for tips in Sue's Diner, the same place you bought sausage-and-egg sandwiches on Saturday mornings. Where you daydreamed over exotic paragraphs in a discarded Grit. Hall sang of giving $7.80 to a waitress for her rent. Of catching catfish in the Whitewater River. Folks said when fog rose from the Whitewater, a phantom McFarlan accelerated along the center line of Cry Woman Bridge. That the hit-and-run girl lies buried beneath the cemetery's dollhouse. You shoplifted paperbacks from Chambers' drugstore. Comic books in which a cursed cowboy tested his quick draw against Beelzebub. During pick-up games at Spartan Field, you tackled with the rage of a teenage boy without the keys to a Rambler. Or even a rust-bucket Corvair. You heard rumors of panthers hunting in the western hills. Of creatures that chewed off their feet to escape the traps on the outskirts of town. When you left for good, you hitchhiked north, abandoning the first car you owned. A Mustang that started once.