April 10, 2012
April 11: Return to Boomtowns by Curtis L. Crisler

Return to Boomtowns

You play in gray rubble

like out some grisly German

documentary where Hitler

took land like peppermints; there’s no

Audie Murphy kicking ass and taking

names like apt accountant, no John Wayne as
commander of Flying Tigers,

you don’t even know

who or what is the Tuskegee

Airmen, how they lost

no one in transit; you’re consumed with privation, dumb

about what it is and how it is up your nasal passage; this is
Gary, Indiana—America the beautiful,

and you are young boy

stepping on splintered

wood between snaggle-

toothed opening in street, and on right side of rubble

a brick two-story house still stands, on the left
side of rubble, a small wooden

house still stands,

so someone foreclosed,

but for you this is ground to play;

in the rubble you avoid touch of rich brick-rusty

nails to sometimes find your treasure: a pen or

a deflated basketball or some small girl’s

half beige-faced Barbie,

and abandonment and

condemned means nothing

to you, you are ghetto child, doing archaeology two

blocks from Broadway, while “Inner City Blues” pulses
from pearly Coupe de Ville. From your little

mind hardly any houses

stay erect, but a mother still

hangs laundry on

clothesline; this is your beat, so move your

little legs like they have a purpose in this drab debris,
again, this is playground, empty like a bomb

fell, superb

like tanks squishing Warsaw, like blood soaked

land of South

Africa, like 9-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc,

naked, body full of napalm, and running…
and like little Phuc, you’re running…

scavenging through

the exotic lens of a camera’s intrusiveness,

a lost—their chance.

This is your Gary, where hands grab at homecoming:

brown soldiers, sizzling streets, airwaves thick from a Motor City.

 —Curtis L. Crisler, Allen County

This poem originally appeared in Pulling Scabs (Detroit: Willow Books, 2009).
Curtis L. Crisler, originally from Gary, is assistant professor of English at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne. He has three books: Pulling Scabs, Tough Boy Sonatas and Dreamist. A Cave Canem Fellow, he has received the Eric Hoffer Award, the Sterling Plumpp First Voices Poetry Award, and an Indiana Arts Commission grant.

Posted In: Miscellaneous

2 responses to “April 11: Return to Boomtowns by Curtis L. Crisler”

  1. I really appreciate Karen for making this possible. It’s a great venue for people to receive us poets from Indiana, to those all around us.

  2. A powerful and haunting poem with great narrative drive.

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