Fifth Estate # 332, Summer, 1989

from Cultural Democracy, Spring 1989, P.O.B. 7591, Minneapolis, MN 55407

Port-of-Call Cass Corridor

Anchored in the oily swamp

Near the crumbling dockyard

Lurks an old ship


Stumbling past

The foggy glass portholes

I glance at the stowaways:

The Black men and women

Are herded and counted

The aisles sway

As they slump on plastic chairs

Escaping only the humiliation

Of an auction block

While whites and an occasional Black

Scurry about the crowded hull

In the uniform of the day

Carrying out their mission

Of sucking blood from the

Tired veins

Of the waiting.


I had my blood drained twice

On one of these ships

Dizzy, I nearly fainted

As the cold remains of my hemoglobin

Trickled back into my sore arm

A long thin ice worm

Slithering toward my

Throbbing and rotting heart.


And Hollywood visited here last year

Taking pictures

Of a politician playing an actor

Or an actor playing a politician

In a speech christening

A fictitious but new

Plasma Donor Center


208 takes before sailing off

To new ports of progress.


A bottle flies over the railing

Startling the sea gulls

With a message about a mutiny before sunrise

While the slave ship rocks gently

In the oily swamp

Near the crumbling

And moaning dockyard.

—William Blank


our town is built on the river bank

the trees are thick with life

i was born on this river bank

and learned the water flowed

between the big lakes.

i learned this piece of earth

looks like a mitten

in a sea of lakes

and this river is the water of the lakes.


the mountains of machinery were already here

on the banks of the river

when i arrived

at night in the factory

i walked along the stone shoreline

and saw the scrub trees covered with soot

the freighter docked along the concrete shore

the conveyor going down deep into her hold

to pull out the iron ore

leaving rusty piles of pellets

waiting to be burned

in the blast furnace.

i sat by the scrub trees

at the edge of the river

and watched a thick liquid pour

out of the factory into the water

the furnace fired and lit the night sky

the stacks spewed a fine shower of metallic smoke

across the water.

now the factory’s steel bones

are rusting at the river’s edge

the concrete foundation crumbles

under its own weight

as the water flows past

carrying off the remains

piece by piece.

the roots of the trees

snake through the cracks

to reach the water.

workers are at a different site

trenching out a line

from the stack to the river

at the base of the thumb

the line reads



this new stack in our town

is bigger than the rest

fueled by waste

a breath thick with sickness

settles on the water and says

I will make the trees bare

no leaves will blossom in the spring

the roots will shrivel at your banks.

the River says

I am the water of the Lakes

we stand on her shore

and listen to what the River says

rise up against the machine

when the voice of the water is silenced

our voices will echo in a lifeless place.

—Mick Vranich

All the Breaths

All the breaths all the people

who ever lived or are alive now

breathe in their life put together

could fit in a space

as big as

Lake Michigan,

Whereas an ant’s total breaths in its life

would fill a space

the size of

your body,

And a human breathes

a space of air in its life

the size of

the Empire State Building,

And a Blue Whale breathes a volume

so large in its life

you could go backpacking in it

for a month

and see no one.


Pontiac’s Speech to the White Man

Out of the blue sky, out of

the waters, out of the woods, of the deer,

the beaver the bush the bird flies, out

of my people the blood, out of

so many moons in this place a man

cannot count them, out of

grace with the Great Spirit who

gave us this land, you seek

to push us.


(At night, in my dreams,

already I smell you, I smell

your railroads, your sawmills,

my mother’s hair burning in the forest, I

smell these things in my dreams,

I see that Chrysler plant you intend

over the graves of my people. You

cannot fool me! I am the

land you seek, I am the supple

bowing of the branches, I am the leaves,

waving a warning to my young men,

I have the strength

of all the roots in the forest

under me, the fox and the bear and the hawk and the badger

have given me their skills, all things and creatures

in the forest have given me what is theirs

for I have given them my spirit, I have,

since the Great Spirit first placed us here, I have

trod with respect and care over

my mother’s flesh, over

this land.


All this! All this! All this!

you will have to push out, you white men, you

weak pale-faced rum drinking cowards, you

who have not been able to manage

your own affairs in your own land, you

who come now to desecrate mine. Ahhh, this


is your last chance, you bastards,

get the fuck out NOW,


or forever the food for the wrath of the forest people.

(I know in my dreams, I know your perverse

power, your guns and your

driven multitudes of paid and punished

warriors, and I know in my dreams,

against you my branches may break,

my leaves may be burned, my fur

singed and bleeding in the bitter cold

of your ways, and my heart bleeds, my roots

squirm and heave with these apprehensions,


but I hear, in my dreams I hear

over the clamor of your Fords, over

the cries of your powdery women in

your department stores over the

shriek of the mutilated forest itself, I hear


another tongue, my tongue

in another’s mouth, in my dreams I hear

the triumph of my forest speech

in another time, and it says, it

screams with a vengeance


Dave Sinclair 1968, in Detroit

land of the Ottawas and Wyandottes

—reprinted from the Warren-Forest Sun, April 19, 1968

Crossing the Freeway

Seven a.m. on the way to work

Sun not up, headlights on

Moving from freeway to freeway

Exiting, entering, making ready

To merge


And there on the entrance ramp

From the north Lodge to east I-94

There in that concrete cavern

On a sorry triangle of green

A tall strong male ring-necked pheasant

Making ready to cross this dangerous

River of cars


Though I’d seen them before

And now more and more in the early

Morning hours

I am open-mouthed

And my foot hits the brake

Wanting so to stop and watch and wait

And help him cross


But quickly thinking better of it

Knowing I would be back-ended

And cause him more of a start

I move on with the flow

Of that tainted river

Just as the sun breaks the urban line

So that his head shines green

Shines red in my passing eye

And I carry his color in my mind

The day long


Campfire Talk

Birds don’t need opinions

because they have pinions.

What is the opinion of the pinon pine

on whether Christianity is

for or against homosexuality?

A flower doesn’t need a savior

to be able to bloom.

A waterfall doesn’t need a guru

in order to gush.

A caterpillar doesn’t need a Bible

to become a butterfly.

A lake doesn’t need a Ph.D.

to become a cloud.

A rainbow doesn’t need a fresh coat of pain

every year.

Worms don’t need to study existentialism

to exist.

Mountaintops don’t need to kneel

and ask forgiveness for their sins.

Capitalism and Communism mean nothing

to every tree that alchemizes light.

No whale will ever know who Christ is.

No chipmunk will ever follow Buddha.

No eagle gives a shit about Mohammed.

No grizzly will ever consult a priest …

No seagull will ever become a Mormon.

No dolphin has to learn computers

if it wants to get along

in the modern world.

No sparrow needs insurance.

No gorilla needs a God.


Sex and Revolution

my flesh is rippling music dancing

as i move my hands my lips across your supple

body blending everything becomes bewildered unpretende

in these moments of ecstatic rhythm

reggae sweat your breath so sweet still

lingering upon my lips

your body mine the last of the wine

spilled between us in a kiss

an offering not offered to some other god

but shared

these moments of ecstatic rhythm writhing

in abandon Dionysus could not have taught me

mysteries more powerful than making love

all acts of pleasure consummate rebellion

all conscious nakedness can shuffle off this mortal coil

and by expanding span the growing chasm between

Self and Not-Self

eliminating borders to abandonment’s continuum

a communion of surrender and resistance

which is survival and our happiness

think this: distances are dangerous

illusions of distinctions are conclusions of


we must be in love with the world become it

to save it from our own self-hatred

lover, i caress the whole in you with every touch

turning us away from sure destruction

bring your lips again to mine

and seal our sweet conspiracy of sex

and revolution pleasure is our bread and wine

and Anarchy our paradise

chaos comes into the inner heart surrounds the world

around just at the moment we dissolve our barriers

against it in these moments of ecstatic rhythm

we become the everywhere and everything

at last, uncontrollable and free.

—Marie Stephens

The fantastic animals on this centerfold and on pages 18, 19 and 23 are by Lynne Clive.