Author’s Note: “I believe I started writing ‘The Bricks of Baltimore’ after I read an article in The Baltimore Sun on the 10th of March 2021 about the deconstruction of Baltimore through the removal of bricks from Sparrow’s Point and a variety of other sites in our city. I was especially moved by the fact that the bricks were then taken to Washington and used for purely decorative purposes in expensive condominiums. I was further astounded by the fact that one could ‘source’ the bricks to different neighborhoods through a variety of colors and striations. By the end of October the poem had undergone six major revisions and was accepted for publication by The Delmarva Review.”
The Bricks of Baltimore
Forty miles to Washington on Route 95,
the bricks go south a truck at a time
in a funeral procession to their final rest
in the false facades of other peoples’ homes,
their faces power-washed and dried by hand.
In the apartment blocks of the rich the bricks
of Baltimore are more than a painful metaphor
of how a city of wasps has sucked out the wealth
from its darker sister like a carnivorous insect.
The city’s ruination began when Beth Steel closed
its giant plant at Sparrow’s Point
and thirty-five thousand good-paying jobs left us
a town of spavined rowhouses with marble stoops
and neighborhoods emptied of workers.
You can guess their origin by a brick’s color and heft:
orange examples from a dumpster on Chase,
the oldest looking born on Federal Street and a few
with vertical stripes from Fenwick Avenue.
The folks in the DC condos are deaf to any rumors
of a past, our old bricks serving for surface decoration
don’t carry the weight of the walls as they did
when the national wealth was more equally spread
when the sixth largest city always had more, not less.
Michael Salcman is a retired physician and teacher of art history in Baltimore. He is past chair of neurosurgery at University of Maryland and past president of Baltimore’s Contemporary Museum. He is a child of the Holocaust and a survivor of polio. His poems appear in Barrow Street, Cafe Review, Harvard Review, Hudson Review and Smartish Pace. Collections include The Clock Made of Confetti, A Prague Spring, Before & After (Sinclair Prize), Shades & Graces (inaugural winner Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize), and Necessary Speech: New & Selected Poems (Spuyten Duyvil, 2022). Website: www.msalcman.com
Delmarva Review selects the best new poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from thousands of original submissions during the year. Designed to encourage outstanding writing from authors everywhere, the literary journal is a nonprofit and independent publication. Support comes from tax-deductible contributions and a grant from Talbot Arts with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Website: www.DelmarvaReview.org