Jack White Writes A Poem For Detroit

He could have saved himself some time and reprinted “Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!),” but White went ahead and penned his own verses to prove he bears no ill-will for the Motor City, even though he relocated to Nashville a couple years ago, has criticized the music scene in interviews (“I couldn’t breathe anymore in that scene,” last month in Rolling Stone). He told the Detroit Free Press he hoped his versification would show “my feelings about the city itself, and how strong I believe it to be,” adding that “those expressions of mine [about the scene] have never been a representation of my feelings about Detroit the city, a town that I have strong feelings about … nor were they expressions about its citizens.” Grab yourself a latte and dig into “Courageous Dream’s Concern” by Jack “Whitman” White.

“Courageous Dream’s Concern”

I have driven slow,
three miles an hour or so,
through Highland Park, Heidelberg, and the
Cass Corridor.
I’ve hopped on the Michigan,
and transferred to the Woodward,
and heard the good word blaring from an
a.m. radio.
I love the worn-through tracks of trolley
trains breaking through their
concrete vaults,
As I ride the Fort Street or the Baker,
just making my way home.

I sneak through an iron gate, and fish
rock bass out of the strait,
watching the mail boat with
its tugboat gait,
hauling words I’ll never know.
The water letter carrier,
bringing prose to lonely sailors,
treading the big lakes with their trailers,
floats in blue green chopping waters,
above long-lost sunken failures,
awaiting exhumation iron whalers,
holding gold we’ll never know.

I’ve slid on Belle Isle,
and rowed inside of it for miles.
Seeing white deer running alongside
While I glide, in a canoe.
I’ve walked down Caniff holding a glass
Atlas root beer bottle in my hands
And I’ve entered closets of coney islands
early in the morning too.
I’ve taken malt from Stroh’s and Sanders,
felt the black powder of abandoned
embers,
And smelled the sawdust from wood cut
to rehabilitate the fallen edifice.
I’ve walked to the rhythm of mariachis,
down junctions and back alleys,
Breathing fresh-baked fumes of culture
nurtured of the Latin and the
Middle East.
I’ve fallen down on public ice,
and skated in my own delight,
and slid again on metal crutches
into trafficked avenues.

Three motors moved us forward,
Leaving smaller engines to wither,
the aluminum, and torpedo,
Monuments to unclaimed dreaming.
Foundry’s piston tempest captured,
Forward pushing workers raptured,
Frescoed families strife fractured,
Encased by factory’s glass ceiling.

Detroit, you hold what one’s been seeking,
Holding off the coward-armies weakling,
Always rising from the ashes
not returning to the earth.

I so love your heart that burns
That in your people’s body yearns
To perpetuate,
and permeate,
the lonely dream that does encapsulate,
Your spirit, that God insulates,
With courageous dream’s concern.

Did you make it straight through to the end? If so, congrats. How’s Detroit taking it? The first commenter over at Free Press notes: “[T]he poem seems to only be able to glorify movements, people, and achievements of previous eras. Afraid of and unable to understand contemporary culture, he can only look back and glorify simpler times.”

[Photo from the Raconteurs @ Bonnaroo 2008]