The Grand River’s Cul-de-sac

A Norway Maple nods to a Ginkgo
who laughs with a Kousa Dogwood
at a teenage Eastern Redbud who
in angst spits seedpods on a

sewer plate stamped 1948 where
immigrants are a blessing and
hate has no home because science
is reeling and Black lives matter

in brick bungalows built between
rows of streets formed in the 1920s
that were bought from farms and
stolen from Nations and the ancient

Oak Hickory Black Walnut Maple Ash
forests and the far away river
The river that once was grand

Poem and Photography by Joel Berends

I am based in Grand Rapids, MI. I am a doctoral candidate in Teacher Education at Michigan State University where I teach courses on the social foundations of education as well as courses in language and literature and teaching practice. I began writing poetry in grade seven to process the death of my mom. Among other things, Mom taught me to garden, to care for and attend to the earth—to experience the universe and my contradictory roles and interactions within it. These poems start from my family’s home and habits—like gardening and playing basketball. The poetry moves through the surrounding streets and the city of Grand Rapids to the Lower Grand River Watershed—the faraway river—home of the people of the Three Fires: the Odawa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi—now the home of many more people with a confluence of complicated histories. With my poetry, I want to move into my parts in and of history—today, in the radical present, attending to complacency, complicity, erasure, and the colonizing effects of whiteness and white supremacy.