from Zone: le Détroit

Di Brandt

copyright ©2003 Di Brandt


See how there’s no one going to Windsor,
only everyone coming from?
Maybe they’ve been evacuated,
maybe there’s nuclear war,
maybe when we get there we’ll be the only ones.
See all those trucks coming toward us,
why else would there be rush hour on the 401
on a Thursday at nine o’clock in the evening?
I counted 200 trucks and 300 cars
and that’s just since London.
See that strange light in the sky over Detroit,
see how dark it is over Windsor?
You know how people keep disappearing,
you know all those babies born with deformities,
you know how organ thieves follow tourists
on the highway and grab them at night
on the motel turnoffs,
you know they’re staging those big highway accidents
to increase the number of organ donors?
My brother knew one of the guys paid to do it,
$100,000 for twenty bodies
but only if the livers are good.
See that car that’s been following us for the last hour,
see the pink glow of its headlights in the mirror?
That’s how you know.
Maybe we should turn around,
maybe we should duck so they can’t see us,
maybe it’s too late,
maybe we’re already dead,
maybe the war is over,
maybe we’re the only ones alive.

Notes on the Poem

Let's delve into how Di Brandt achieves some powerful effects in this haunting section of "Zone: le Détroit" from her 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection "Now You Care". Almost from the outset, the poem creates a mounting sense of tension. The first question strikes a slightly anxious note and then swiftly segues into alarming suppositions. Even if you're not familiar with the specific geographical location of the poem, the intimacy with which the poem's narrator both knows it and surmises that something is inconsistent with what should or should not be happening at a particular time will make you apprehensive. And then the questions continue ... The fevered observations, imaginings and theories also continue, from "people keep disappearing" to much, much worse. Even as that escalates, though, the poem feature that most emphatically builds this section of the poem's singular feeling of paranoia is its ripples of repetition: "maybe maybe maybe" and "see see see" and "you know, you know, you know". As these informative course notes from the University of Pennsylvania (2007) point out, "repetition of a sound, syllable, word, phrase, line, stanza, or metrical pattern is a basic unifying device in all poetry." Here, we can also see the device intensifying as it unifies this poem segment. By the end, the repetition is breathless and verging on overwrought. (Listen to Brandt's reading of the poem here and notice how her tempo changes in this section.) Plucked out of the larger context of the complete poem, does the tension of this section will drive you to the next section in hopes of relief and solace, or inspire you to continue simply to find out what happens next?

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