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Campus Martius Fountain in Detroit Kids play at the Campus Martius Fountain in Detroit. (photo: Maia C./Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

After listening to this week’s show with Grace Lee Boggs (“Becoming Detroit”), Peter Putnam sent this inspired response:

“Time Inc. was here for a year — and this is the story they missed: Detroit becoming. Full disclosure: I’ve known Grace since 1993. In fact, I met my wife, Julia, through Detroit Summer, Grace and Jimmy’s (r)evolutionary idea to utilize the spirit of young people to revitalize, re-imagine, and re-spirit Detroit. Julia was actually Detroit Summer’s first volunteer and is now deep in the process of creating a place-based school in Detroit, the Boggs Educational Center, that will draw on many of the people and principles that came out in your show. Ending with Invincible’s hip-hop song was also right on.”

He then ended his note with this poem, which he composed for Grace Lee Boggs on her 96th birthday:

Detroit Jesus

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 for 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.

Like Grace,
born in Providence,
he lives so simply,
he could live anywhere:
Dublin, Palestine, Malibu.
But Detroit is his home.
It was here one Sunday
a boy invited him down
            off the cross
and into his house
for a glass of 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
where head and heart and hands
            meet,
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.

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9 Comments

How easy it is - in Detroit, in Beijing, in towns too small to be photo-mapped by Google - to be blind to Jesus as he lives today.  Great and inspirational poem.

nice to see aspects of the Social Gospel are still inspiring people, as long as we see the Beloved Community as a people who are working for the coming future and not as the fulfillment of the Good News than I think that we have captured some of the spirit of John Caputo's theology of the weakness of God and not confusing ourselves with God.

How could Peter Putnam miss mentioning the concert Jesus gave? http://www.thelastwhy.ca/poems...

This is a Jesus I hadn't considered.  Now, my eyes have been opened a bit wider. 
BEAUTIFUL!

"Who would've known that Jesus would come back to the ghetto
On that level, and that feral, like a black hero with packed metal?"

RAKIM, from the 8-Mile cd

the difference is only the "packed metal" Jesus knew no self preservation in violence. but  the "roads" and danger He and the Hero walk are the same.

Beautiful! Jesus is in all these things and more--Emmanuel, God With Us.

I love my city and its people. Excellent work Mr. Putnam

You make me want to return to the city I fled so many years ago, not as savior or peep-show voyeur from the safety of my car, but as someone who comes with the simple symbols of a plastic bag and a rake.  Your poem is inspired, beautiful and inspiring.  Thank you.

apples