Detroit Jesus by Peter Putnam

Detroit Jesus

                                   (for Grace Lee Boggs

                                    one day after her 96th Birthday)

                                    Time, Inc., buys a house in Detroit

                                    and tries to track him for a year.

                                    But he’s invisible to those looking for a

                                                blue-eyed dude in a white robe

                                    or a city gone completely to hell.

                                    He is the cinnamon of my son’s skin

                                    with a green thumb and a Tigers cap

                                    and my daughter’s dove-grey eyes.

                                    He prays into Blair’s guitar,

                                    hangs out on Field St.,

                                    bakes bread at Avalon

                                    and plants tomatoes on the East side.

                                    He rides his old-school bike down the heart

                                                of Grand River,

                                    paints a mural in the Corridor,

                                    shoots hoop in the Valley

                                                with priests and pimps and lean young men

                                    trying to jump their way to heaven.

                                    At night,

                                    while the Border Patrol counts cars,

                                    he walks across the water

                                                to Windsor,

                                    grabs a bite to eat,

                                    walks back.

                                    Born in Providence,

                                    he lives so simply,

                                    he could live anywhere:

                                    Dublin, Palestine, Malibu.

                                    But Detroit is his home.

                                    It was here one Sunday

                                    that a boy invited him down

                                                off the cross

                                    and into his house

                                    for a Faygo red pop.

                                    That was centuries ago, it seems,

                                    and how far he’s come,

                                    reinventing himself more times than Malcolm.

                                    He’s been to prison,

                                    been to college,

                                    has a tattoo of Mary Magdalene on one arm,

                                    Judas on the other,

                                    and knows every Stevie Wonder song by heart.

                                    He’s Jimmy, he’s Invincible, he’s Eminem.

                                    He’s the girls at Catherine Ferguson

                                                and their babies,

                                    and he’s the deepest part of Kwame

                                    still innocent as a baby. 

                                    The incinerator is hell,

                                    but he walks right in,

                                    burns it up with love,

                                    comes out the other side,

                                    walks on.

                                    He can say “Amen” in twelve religions,

                                    believes school is any place

                                    his head and heart and hands


                                    and wears a gold timepiece around his neck

                                    with no numbers, just a question:

                                    What time is it on the clock of the world?

                                    And every second of every day

                                    he answers that question

                                    with a smile wide as the Ambassador

                                    and a heart as big as Belle Isle,

                                    hugging this city in his arms

                                    and whispering to each soul

                                    words no one else dares to say:

                                    You are Jesus,

                                    this is your Beloved Community,

                                    and the time

                                    on the clock of the world

                                    is Now.