In memory of Forsteen "Tina" Brooks
The Fisher Building still bustles
but in the sixties, we’d walk
into Himelhoch's, which is now only online,
sells Ethiopian coffee. When I was little,
we’d ride Hudson’s elevators, later
have a Maurice salad or go
to Sanders in Royal Oak, which was not
chic yet, for shaved ham sandwiches
and a hot fudge creampuff. We’d sit on stools
at the counter, my mother and I,
we were always served sitting on those stools—
though not too many years before, down south
the woman I loved among the most
couldn’t have sat with us.
I didn’t know why then.
Neither did I know most Jews didn’t eat
ham sandwiches—we didn’t have pork at home—
only crisp bacon, a staple, and never
ever wore a Jewish star around our necks.
Might as well wear an armband
with its yellow-pointed patch.
Those were the days when your pumps
matched your pocketbook,
that’s what we carried—not purses—
and ladies lunched, taking small bites
at others, keeping their lipstick clean.
Detroit, booming (and how I want it now),
youth, here, with options—
knowing every job has meaning, the need
for plumbers, phone operators, all the valued
salesladies, waiters and counter girls,
salesmen, electricians, mounted police
when cops walked their beats.
I salute all you men and women,
who staffed the elevators,
who showed up over and over,
so we could sit under bright lights
at a clean counter, eating shaved ham.