Monday, March 10, 2014

The Ghosts Of Frida And Diego


Ballroom of the Lee Plaza Hotel circa 1930


Rows and rows of empty, Diego.
Stunted trees too poor to leave.
The germ and jelly of miscarriage
plated and plattered.

Even before our trip to this so-called paradise,
the motley were marching -
the women swinging their cotton dresses,
men raising their voices in "L'Internationale."
But, no one could tell you, Diego.
You wouldn't hear.

Now, I fear it's too late
to catch and cure the cancer
you misdiagnosed and celebrated in the murals.
The machines do not free the worker,
feed the worker,
or even need the worker anymore, Diego.
The machines bake bread no one can afford to eat,
and art is just an echo.



Ballroom of the Lee Plaza Hotel, present day

Notes:  When it was built in 1929, Detroit's Lee Plaza Hotel was an opulent hotel / apartment building for the city's wealthiest residents.  The hotel changed hands several times, was at one time a senior living complex, and has been abandoned since the 1990s.

In 1932, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo arrived in Detroit for a 10 month stay.  Diego had been commissioned to paint a mural depicting the Ford Factory for the Detroit Institute of Art.  The resulting controversial work celebrated the working classes and reflected Diego's belief than automation would improve working conditions.

I have no reason to believe that Diego and Frida stayed at Lee Plaza during their time in Detroit.  But, it would make a hell of a story, wouldn't it?



A Sunday Whirl Magpie for Open Link Monday at Real Toads.  I'm exhausted.

22 comments:

cosmos cami said...

An excellent "what if." I appreciate your adding the background to the poem.
The wording is really done well.

Sylvia K said...

Oh, WOW!! This is great MZ!! An excellent "what if" indeed! Terrific!!

Marian said...

it really would. love this.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Sad to see such an old grand hotel fall into ruin. You have peopled it with artistic ghosts and memories of a bygone era. Really cool idea!

Fireblossom said...

I've never been inside the Lee Plaza, but there are a number of the old dinosaurs still there or recently torn down in Detroit. When my parents divorced, my father lived for a time in one of them, and I used to visit him there as a child in the 70s. He took me to see the mural at the DIA. It's quite impressive. I always remembered it.

Sometimes I wonder what Detroit must have been like when it was vital and thriving. I hadn't known about Frida and Diego having lived there back in the day, but your poem mixed his optimistic vision with the sour current reality. It's really sad what's happened here.

Wayne said...

I love it....especially the Diego..Frida connection....we visited thei blue house in Mex City last ear....nicely done

Laura said...

Powerful poem and images… it would be a wonderful coincidence if they had stayed there.

Kathryn said...

A while back I watched a film about Frida and Diego and remember the mural that you talk about. Your piece really brought those remembered images to life.

Belva Rae Staples said...

Great poem!

kaykuala said...

Thanks for the historical information MZ! Was appalled when I first saw the image at Tess' Magpie. You've beautifully filled in the jig-saw puzzle most brilliantly with your poem!

Hank

Susan said...

How powerful!! Diego was a talented brute, wasn't he? You capture so much of he and Frida here, too. I can almost see them dancing across the floor between wreckages and parties, her bed in the wings.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

The machines once heralded to replace brute labor so workers could enjoy leisure time only resulted in the working poor becoming poorer - and jobless. So sad. Loved your poem, loved you directing your words to the artist.........

blueoran said...

You made a hell of a story of it, MZ. The explanatory notes at the end justified everything I read in the poem and couldn't quite attribute to. The pathos of present-day Detroit is such an immense condemnation of the dream of technology that we can hardly understand it. Yet. But poems like these help us to read the illness in the wreckage. An ambitious poem, MZ, and you show comfort bringing massive talent to it. Shouldn't there be a book titled "Detroit" assembled by the collective? I spent 25 thousand words on "A Soul In Ev'ry Stone' trying to connoiter the space and failed. But we have to, or there's no understanding where this country is fast slipping to. I'm wondering if you could nail your theme more firmly with a different title.

grapeling said...

Once I worked with a man from Detroit who showed these websites of houses by the thousands now abandoned. An indignity, and a condemnation in both senses. Well-wrought, MZ ~

Lorraine Renaud said...

Exhaustion suits you wow what a wonderful story I'd move in a NY second, wow

Other Mary said...

It sure made a hell of a poem. Or rather you did. Kudos.

hedgewitch said...

The future is indeed built from the 'what ifs' of the past...I often wonder, though how the selection is made. The more I read about Frida's and Diego's time, the more I sense that we have devolved and dissolved all the things they worked towards, all the things they believed, in an acid money-bath, and the caustic apathy of the those who are content to live for the bread and circuses the masters provide us. We're all dancin with the stars, down the vast drain where civilization swirls ever downward.I especially like the lines about the machines--they totally ring true. A fine, strong, serious poem, MZ.

Audrey Howitt aka Divalounger said...

I love where you took this prompt and it does make a hell of a story!

Helen said...

... 'and art is just an echo' ~~ great line in a masterpiece of a poem.

Tess Kincaid said...

Well done...you did your homework...and it shows...love the Frida and Diego touch...

Kutamun said...

A powerful illustration of how humans , the people, are no longer the intellectual , moral or spiritual imperative of capitalism........sad , but im ok with sad

Margaret said...

Oh this is fantastic and I googled the art and artist. The words are haunting paired with the desolate image -