Erika Meitner’s poem “Outside the Abandoned Packard Plant,” from her recent BOA book Copia, was featured in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. The poem was selected by former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey as the newly relaunched magazine’s poem of the week.
According to the feature, “There is a driving rhythm in this poem — the industry of crickets, the forward motion of the lines — even as there is no man-made machinery at work in the defunct auto plant. The contrast between the two heightens the tension between what is lost and the image, in the last line, of a possible future.”
Erika Meitner’s fourth book grapples with the widespread implications of commercialism and over-consumption, particularly in exurban America. Documentary poems originally commissioned by Virginia Quarterly Review examine the now-bankrupt city of Detroit, once the thriving heart of the American Dream. Meitner probes the hulking ruins of office buildings, tract housing, superstores, construction sites, and freeways–exposing a vacuous world of decay and abandonment–while holding out hope for re-birth from ashes.
Outside the Abandoned Packard Plant
By Erika Meitner
closed fifty-four years, the crickets
are like summer, are like night
in a field, but it is daytime. It is August.
There is no pastoral in sight — only
Albert Kahn’s stripped factory, acres
of busted and trembling brick facade
so vast there must be thousands
of crickets rubbing their wings
beneath makeshift thresholds of PVC
piping tangled in ghetto palm saplings
growing through a deflated mattress top
tossed over rusted industrial metal the shape
of an elephant dropped on its knees
dispensing invisible passengers into
moats of rubble dappled with what?
These crickets, their industrious wings
mimicking silence and song, lonely
background, until one beat-up maroon
Buick flies down Concord, accelerating
like the road just keeps going, like he’ll
actually get away with whatever he’s doing,
then two white cop cars, Doppler sirens
shrieking and braiding, but it is peaceful
other than that — you might think
you’re in the country as in not the city
as in wilderness under the bridge that used to say
MOTOR CITY INDUSTRIAL PARK
and now just punched out eyes and ARK
Click here to see the New York Times Magazine feature.
Erika Meitner’s Copia is available at the BOA Bookstore.