Marvin Lurie

But, That Was Then (2018)

Time was, if your father or uncle
had an in with a Democratic precinct captain
or ward committeeman,
you could get to be a Chicago cop.
They patrolled our neighborhood in car 127.
When we were rowdy on the drugstore corner,
they just ran us off. Told us to go home.

Growing up I only ever saw two black men.
One shoveled coal into the basement of our six flat.
The other a farmer with crates of live chickens
who came around once a week.

There was a girl in high school,
one black speck in a flood of white.
I saw her every day, then she was gone.
I missed seeing her
an anomaly who exposed our sameness.
I never said hello or knew her name.

College summer jobs I worked with and for blacks,
face to face on the shop floor inside the factory walls.
Outside was everything else.

Now I never walk down the street thinking I'm white.


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