Words of Our Own

Jan 9, 2008 at 12:00 am

"Detroit" was conceived 10 years ago after a very interesting conversation with Harriet Saperstein about the city of Detroit. After she left my house, the poem came to me as a whisper. She devoted 35 years of work to the architectural improvement of the city, and I was surprised and also very challenged about what my contribution would be in the coming years. At that time, I was not really sure how long I would stay, and my concern was to make a difference in my time here, that I would be able to develop as a person but also give back to the community. —Mariela Griffor

by Mariela Griffor

When I drive down from

Grosse Pointe on Warren

a sudden knot in my heart

is born.

The solitude my soul

is roaming

with the images of

a city broken

and gone.

I cross my fingers

hoping I won't see

any black cats


steaming manholes.

Detroit full of churches

and where is God?

Could he be hidden

under politicians' coats?

A mon cher

looked through my car window

and he believed

he melted snow.

His eyes aflame

consumed two seconds

when the red light stops.

City in flames,

who took away your palaces

and gave you back

to a tribal pain?

It was not me,

I am a foreigner,

I just came to see.

Detroit wake up

from your profound sleep.

Build back your empire.

Build it back

so I can see.

Forget about

black LaKeishas

and your white Portias

forget about your yellow Chengs

and your brown Carolas.

Let the golden haze

that rusts on your aura

shine proudly

on your face again.

Let a feeling of goodness

grip the city as if in storm.

Let your dreams flourish and endure.

Turn the holy fight into


Let the happiness return.

Leave your vinegar grief behind.

Let me see Detroit.

Let me see.