Ode to Detroit

I could have called this, ode to home or ode to Motown,
but both have a warmth in their belly I ain’t never held.

This ain’t no ode to my momma’s house or Berry Gordy
anyway, this is to the city that scarred my face enough

to be pretty in an ugly world. A city where each homicide
over the last forty years played out to the tune of a classic

r&b cut, cuz we prefer our murders with beats you can
bop to. A city where one night, that same summer

da homie got all six foot five inches of bark stomped out
his face walking home alone from a school dance, I

wandered the hood trying to find myself, landing on
the corner of where u from! and who u wit!—alone,

unsure of any acceptable answers, considering running
though the certainty of two truths: one, the rhythmic

thump thump of feet flying through the hood smells
the same as blood in the water; two, the sharks on these

corners always got room in they stomachs for whatever
you value less than your life that day. I thank god

my low hanging head and modestly priced apparel rendered
me invisible, as stories of boys wearing Jays and Buffs

nearly always end in a list of bullet points or shrapnels
of teeth and a fresh limp. None of which could my momma

afford, even with the discount she received for housekeeping
at the hospital and the pay from her side hustles and the

manna she kept tucked under her tongue. I should consider
the possibility none of this was an accident. What if

momma, in her owlish wisdom, knew the jilted blocks
her son wandered—to smother the whispers in him

and find a smile he could steal for himself to wear.
Maybe she knew, if he happened upon one, he’d

make it home alive if he wore humility
instead of fly. And so, maybe this title ought be:

Ode to the empty pockets that made my momma broke enough to keep her son alive in a city that will kill for your retros and for your smile