Two Poems

President Obama Visits Racine

The leader of the Republicans in the house said that financial reform was like – I’m quoting here – “using a nuclear weapon to kill an ant.” He’s got to come here to Racine and ask the people what they think. Do you think the financial crisis was an ant and we just needed a little fly swatter to fix this thing? – Barack Obama, 6/30/2010

In the evening news cast the smiling president has purchased a slice of kringel from my second cousin, Sara Noe at the O and H bakery as aides and secret service men surround him. Then his entourage hurries down Durand Avenue past empty factories and lusterless houses listing like ships in trouble, bound for a town hall meeting at Memorial Hall overlooking Lake Michigan. On the way, well wishers stand along the motorcade route in summer sun waving flags and calling his name, here where the violence of despair and the despair of violence dance together on the tip of a pin.

Echoes sound along the river;
poison ivy lurking on weedy banks;
Root River’s murky water
cutting the town in half
flowing past the carp and auto parts,
blind as an Old Testament prophet
stumbling into the lake’s cool, wide embrace


The old neighborhood is renamed Towerview now in honor of the Johnson’s Wax tower designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A few houses left on Franklin still bob like boats in the tower’s shadow, but blocks have been razed and replaced by empty, grassy malls, the bustle of 14th St. repossessed to silence: The Toddle Inn, Solomon’s Standard station, Wimpy’s Bar, Vi’s Grocery, all vanquished by  the wrecking ball. Racine Revitalization is trhing to interest buyers in the project of moving back: raising families, mowing lawns, sitting on porch stoops hot July nights as light fades, calling out the names of children, mosquitoes swarming beneath a street lamp.

Footfalls of ghosts,
tread the alley between Center and Franklin,
backyards wild with grass and rhubarb,
the beacon of the tower shining down
like the unblinking eye of God.

—John Krumberger, Minneapolis, MN