In Our Lifetime

We sold our house

to a black family.

In 1965, in Chicago, when unwritten rules

were clear.

We broke the covenant.

My father on the run

from the bank, he had no more

buy-now-pay-later excuses –

our neighbors would never

speak to us again.

I believed my father’s explanation:

they were just jealous

of his new TV and his

big car, my mother’s fur coat.

His bought-into dreams

discolored and deferred.

Another father

scraping a path out of

housing projects just two blocks away

claimed his piece of a used and tarnished dream –

a simple brick bungalow on a 30-foot lot.

This black family chose

to live among Poles Italians Irish –

on one side a family so arrogant they refused to speak –

on the other side, a clan of eight kids, including a boy

who ate dirt with a tablespoon in the front yard,

their house so close you could join in their breakfast conversation –

and next to them

new-world fascists who sent their son out to play

dressed in military uniforms.

Green was the only color

my father saw in front of him,

a family with a proud

down payment clenched

in a strong working man’s hand.

Broken, we moved

into a two-bedroom basement apartment

heads down on a rainy October afternoon.

–Albert DeGenova

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