“Art Installation” by Ken Meisel

Ken Meisel


after Ryan Doyle’s Dragon Gon Krin, “Save the Arts”

The artist had constructed from Midwest metal
a dragon, fire flaming from its gaping mouth,

and a group of evening radicals, tramping around,
had hauled the beast in a truck, unpacked it

and hoisted it up together in one piece,
in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

This was in the first dissonant, hard press
of autumn, where the midnight moon—

glowing like a halo above the cut of rooflines
and the feudal turrets of the neighborhood—

seemed to furnace-burn the yellow and the orange
tree leaves hanging limp there, waiting to fall.

What makes us dream? What touched me
as I stood out there in the noisy cold,

gazing at this iron dragon transforming art
into passion, the night’s darkness into heat,

the literal, back into metaphor, and then back?
The ardor of love, like a negation of death,

accessible, mysterious, where the image
is suddenly set free, in an influx of fiery flames.

Where werewolves or just kids roam free—
arriving here on bicycles, some of them

in couples, embracing one another
in a contagion of similarity, arms wrapped

over each other’s necks, their sleeves
becoming scarves as the dragon lit up

the night. Monomania of the artist, now
becoming all our mania, this rust belt I am.

from Rattle #57, Fall 2017
Tribute to Rust Belt Poets


Ken Meisel: “To grow up here was to grow up in glory and ruin. In the ’70s, this was a weirdly glorified place—you’ve got Motown, the autos, Jackie Wilson, this music legacy, jazz clubs, Miles, Ella Fitzgerald—there’s this glory, but it was also this post-apocalyptic ruin of burnt out buildings and heroin addicts in the streets. It was a horror, really. And so, even then, when I lived down there and was fumbling with writing mostly as a student, I was transfixed with that juxtaposition. How can it be this but also that?”

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