South Side Poetry Suite, Part IV of VI

Following Part IPart II, and Part III, which appeared over the past three days, here is Part IV of my six-part suite of poems about the South Side of Chicago, White Flight, home, and exile, for National Poetry Month.
Growing Up in the Family that Stayed
1) So here’s how it goes as the family who stayed,
2) where inhabiting your home is a radical statement,
3) while they flee like thieves, try to make you believe
4) that it’s deviant to keep on living where you live.
5) One part of the South Side that skipped the tomfoolery:
6) Hyde Park — an integrated community.
7) Didn’t just happen, not random chance,
8) but planned in tandem, wallets financed.
9) Politicians, business, citizens, college
10) didn’t abandon their vision, let the cynics demolish
11) their wishes, by game plan, luck or moxy;
12) Hyde Park bucks orthodoxy.
13) Shadowboxing the vagabonds who ran, absconded,
14) catatonic, you know that Dad and Mom
15) didn’t panic, but they had to saddle on,
16) settle down near Jews to gather and davven.
17) Not bad, cause their Babylon is on Lake Michigan:
18) living how their vision said, they’re rich again.
19) They pitched a tent and lived in urban density,
20) destiny’s revelry with friends to see.
21) Cavort, no escort, ring the door, the tendency,
22) explore by feet, city boys like men, free.
23) Prep a school debate, adolescent intensity,
24) swigging fruit shakes til late at the Medici,
25) a fixture, by graffiti Attica picture
26) over Bixler where Labbies come to sip elixirs.
27) Youth group scavenger hunt, plant mysteries
28) at the Museum of Science and Industry —
29) a muse and a rudder, and I discovered with my brother,
30) it’s the Butterfield East-West album cover.
31) Learning was good in the hood and the classroom,
32) mind was tended at Kenwood high school.
33) The heroes who helped me think more and smarter,
34) Ms. Stein, Mr. Gilbert, Viktora, Tarta —
35) finest builders, poured their hearts out,
36) public school teachers, my Torah scholars.
37) Class was tight, learned right in my schooling,
38) procrastinate late night, Son of Svengoolie.
39) No need for tall papes, flipping through racks
40) of 3-dollar tapes at Dr. Wax.
41) A kosher child, the rarest of things:
42) South Sider who never had Harold’s wings.
43) My Harolds were Baines and the local weekly,
44) where Grandpa’s page got the neighbors speaking,
45) and the mayor, who could stare from his lair at the parakeets.
46) {beat} My prayer: God bless and keep
47) Hyde Park, where the Harper Court sages played chess
48) while I catch a matinee, Malcolm X.
49) Hyde Park, where local biz smokes the chains,
50) and for the heads — the home of WHPK.
51) I won’t front, though, it’s no balm to heal the globe:
52) spawned the atom bomb and Leopold & Loeb.
53) R Kelly, the predator, called it home, too,
54) molested minors outside my high school.
55) But we got a problem, we don’t hide from it;
56) draw it all in, optic, sonic.
57) I look back on it, here’s something ironic
58) They booked like a rocket from a plague, bubonic,
59) But the one South Side spot where Jews kept on in
60) Is the part where the Minister Farrakhan sits
61) We know how to cope next to those who hate us,
62) parochial, baroque, faux-sophisticated.
63) It’s average Black folks we wouldn’t live by
64) by Flight we Assimilated, became white.

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