I walked down Euclid Street, in Northwest Washington, DC, a black neighborhood of working class families in the 1970′s many times. Now it is a very upscale street with ultra-modern apartments and condos priced from $300,000 to $900,000 dollars. So, this poem, I wrote in the seventies, is dedicated to those families that made this street memorable to me.
Greenness grows in this ghetto
(dirtiness and bareness
this we know)
Trees do tower here
and lawns small as match covers
are neat behind wire white wooded fences.
Flowers like flames flood from
yards and trees.
One large full bloomed pink rose
stands starkly alone
before a pealing gray plaster home.
Ignoring the gray littered concrete
delicate violets and blood purple leaves bend,
and almost hidden behind one fence
soft velvet blossoms rest.
Do not say these yards are not green.
Or that the sky is always gray.
On days rare as a trusting smile
the sun blasts the sky clear and bright
as new washed windows.
More children than doors grow here
free as waves of smoke
“I shot you and you ain’t dead”
“I’m gonna beat his ass”
They speak without fear
and question only with
the curiosity of newness.
The women sit on porches of row houses.
Old women quietly watch worlds walk on.
And the other women, young
and not so young
carrying children, without children
faces work worn and warm
walking wanting wishing
for space and time and dream fulfilled.
Men stagger and stumble and swagger
tired, torn, without a revolution
but alive beyond the slight breath.
And young men
who think they are cool
so jive, they only fool
Life smolders here
within the dark walls
of our black homes.
Life boils here
like a rising tide
to wash the world clean
to begin a new creation.