Here in a State of Tectonic Tension

Lawrence Joseph

Its geography similar to Istanbul’s –
read for Lake Huron, the Black Sea,
for the St Clair River, the Bosporus,
for Lake St Clair, the Sea of Marmara,
for the Detroit River, the Dardanelles,
and for Lake Erie, the Mediterranean –
a natural place for Ford and Olds to open factories,
strategically tangential to the Pittsburgh steel mills,
Akron rubber plants, the Mesabi iron ore range.
Here, in ultimate concentration, is industrial
America – Chrysler, Continental, Budd, Hudson,
in an area not much larger than two square miles,
nearly one hundred thousand employed on two
or three shifts – the capital of a new planet, the one
on wheels. Whacked-out, stamped-out connecting rods,
the steady blown-out flare of furnaces, hammer-die
brought down on anvil-die, oil-holes drilled and oil-
grooves cut – Fordism was Gramsci’s word to describe
mass assembly based on systems of specialised
machines operating within organisational domains
of vertically integrated conglomerates fed by small
and medium-sized units co-ordinated by methods
of marketing exchange – an epical, systemic violence.
Anonymous’s eyes pop as he laughs and says
‘dragged the old coon from his car, kicked him till
he shit himself, and then we set the auto on fire – God
Jesus was it a show!’ How many summers after that
the Motor City burned to the ground? Soon several new
regimes of redistributed wealth would alter the way
capitalism proceeded, a squad of police breaks down
the union hall door, swinging crowbars and tossing canisters
of Mace – around the time the long depression started.
There are stalks of weeds in sunlit snow, an abandoned
house surrounded by acres of snow. The decay apparently
has frightened the smart money away. Metaphorically
underwater – more is owed on properties in Detroit than
the properties are worth. His hands and feet were bound,
found beaten in a field near Post and Fort, he is in intensive
care at Receiving Hospital, says Sergeant Ollie L. Atkins,
investigators yet to ask him who he is or what happened.
Notice that on the high school baseball diamond is a herd
of goats – attended by whom? Notice, a few doors down,
the stucco plastered house painted baby blue, walking in front
in a red stocking cap, green specks on his shoes – what
do you think he is thinking? Drive Woodward to Seven Mile,
west on Seven Mile to Hamilton, Hamilton south to the Lodge
Freeway, then the Lodge downtown, and measure the chaos,
drive Mack Avenue east to Seminole, south on Seminole
to Charlevoix, then west on Charlevoix to Van Dyke, south
on Van Dyke to East Jefferson, and remember what isn’t.
Ionic pillars carved with grapes and vine leaves no longer
there, deserted houses of gigantic bulk, in which it seems
incredible anyone could ever have lived, no longer there,
Dodge Main’s nocturnal gold vapours no longer there,
the constellated bright lights reflected on the Rouge River’s
surface no longer there. Narco-capital techno-compressed
and gone viral, spread into a state of tectonic tension and freaky
abstractions – it’ll scare the fuck out of you, is what it’ll do,
anthropomorphically scaled down by the ferocity of its own
obsolescence. Which of an infinity of reasons explain it?
Which of an infinity of conflagrations implode its destruction?