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Workingclass nostalgia

I remember Detroit when it hummed
with factories like an army of bees
all day, all night. I remember downtown
when it felt too fancy for us, Hudsons
with window displays of clothes
we might find secondhand
in a year or two or three.

I remember Detroit when Grand River
was bright with stores arguing
for your paycheck. The bars
thrummed with our music.
You might have to lie to get a job
if you were Jewish, or be turned
down if you were Black, but jobs

filled the papers we marked with
crayon circles. Who sucked
the money out? Who sent the jobs
overseas to gut the unions?
They live out in the more distant
suburbs where we never went
except as maids, way past

the end of the bus lines.
Invisible unless we appear
where we don’t belong among
decision makers who view us
as beasts of burden. They are
persons; we are only numbers.

Marge Piercy ( is the author of seventeen novels, most recently Sex Wars; seventeen volumes of poetry, most recently The Crooked Inheritance; a memoir, Sleeping with Cats; and two nonfiction books. Knopf will publish her second volume of selected poems, The Hunger Moon: Selected Poems, 1980-2010, next March.

2010, Volume 62, Issue 04 (September)
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