I Come From Trouble
White deer wandered through husks of burnt-out buildings,
browsing the new growth that sprang up after the fires and riots.
They'd fled into the river during the flames, somehow survived.
The gang from Royal Oak rounded up the deer for food,
but I hid a pair in the old zoo where I'd been living since
the trouble times. I hated to keep them captive; the place
resembled an ancient prison: small dark cells with no windows,
stalactites and stalagmites forming around the leaks in the roof,
but better that than eaten by the gangs. They showed up too well
in the woods and outer compounds, even at night. I blacked up
with char from the burned-over tree stumps. I gathered food
for the deer at night, let them loose in the inner chambers
where the hunger fiends couldn't spot them. The twenty-foot
chain-link fences with three strands of barbed wire
discouraged raids on what must have seemed to the gangs
like a hopeless jungle of weeds. I'd planted nettles and thorny
brambles on both sides of the fence and the moat of stinking swamp
was helpful too. They didn't realize that the dandelions,
burdocks, nettles and other weeds provided all the food
we needed, the deer and I. Though I couldn't see into the city,
I heard the gunfire and explosions, guessed at the gang war.
Heard the invasions, the Feds purging. Waited for silence,
And then waited some more. And here I am, with my companions
Snow, Ice and their baby, White Dove. We come from trouble
times. We came through flame and lived. I am a new woman;
call me Phoenix.
Mary Stebbins Taitt
090413-1333-2b, 090413-1322-2a (first completed draft), 090412-1st
Note on the poem: this is for the NaPoWriMo challenge, "Where did you come from." I've written a number of "Where-did-I-come-from" poems, so I was looking for a different but related idea and yesterday, BB and I explored the old Zoo at Belle Isle where the white deer were kept captive after they were rounded up. The horrible, prison-like price and the fate of the deer (sold for food!) upset me and resonated, so I wrote this—it's "imaginary" but a metaphor of sorts—I
come from trouble—flame and fire. The fire, gangs riots and Feds are part of the history of Detroit. And Easter Sunday seemed like a good time for a rebirth image.
This is the first completed draft, what I wrote yesterday was only about half this and different. So there's a good chance there'll be more drafts and I will post them in the same post above the other during National Poetry month, anyway. That way, the newest version will always be at the top.