“In Detroit, What Counts as Grace” by Christine Rhein

Christine Rhein


Trees growing from the roofs
of empty factories and houses,
birds nesting deep inside.

Children at their desks
without breakfast, busy adding
and subtracting, the lunch bell
not ringing until 12:45.

The teacher, mid-morning,
with snack mix from home,
pouring a little extra
into the shyest cupped hands.

The men who stand and fish,
casting lines into the river,
office towers soaring at their backs.

New farmers, in their agri-hoods,
watering and weeding, growing
peas, beans, Motor City Kale,
making Wild Detroit Honey.

The cooks who serve up
Coney Dogs, burritos,
shawarma—even at 3 a.m.—
singing out the orders.

And the woman at Cass and Forest
dancing by her boom box
every afternoon, her feet 
sliding on the sidewalk, 
trailing through the snow.

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

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Christine Rhein: “I grew up in Detroit, and I’ve always lived in southeastern Michigan. When I began studying and writing poetry, in my mid-30s, I discovered the work of Philip Levine. I was inspired not only by his poems, but also by the circumstances of his early life. As a daughter of immigrants and as an automotive engineer, I suddenly saw, through Levine, that I might dare write poems.” (website)

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