Hello In My Neighborhood

By Nancy Shiffrin

yellow tape blocks my jogging route
someone shot last night Gloria found him
he seemed asleep like a baby in his truck
she shivers in the early morning chill wonders
"is he Mexican or Salvadoran? was it gangs?"
tells the history of violence on Beck near Victory
how they finally had to call the police
when Bill tried to run Anne down
”will I phone?”
her daughter should be home by now
“they won't tell a black voice anything”

lunch at Thai Kitchen a man bursts in
"some damn woman on a Talk Show big problem
daughter dating a Negro
whole damn world phoning in advice!"
"sit down and eat some squid" I invite
"shalom I'm Kenneth" he orders duck still shaking
I respond "keefhala mahebra buenos dias"
"what hospital you born in?" he gives me five
we do New York Geography share the newspaper
front page Latasha Harlin's face he cries
"I'm the darkest in my family my sisters almost pass
Koreans control international banking”

stone in my throat I cannot speak
he makes the waitress laugh practicing
"thank You" in Thai
a friend worries about the lynching in Brooklyn
invites me to the shooting range
I remember
open air markets herring stand
stooped man with payess
my great-grandfather?
parents shopped Sundays
never introduced me wanted me to pass?
march on Washington first boyfriend
we couldn't hear the speech
went to Maryland tried to get married
Dr. King's murder man who held me tongue thrust deep to silence my cries

day cooling down
Gloria knocks wants to jog with me
needs to take off some pounds anyway
a boy boasted he'd tracked my route
didn't she tell me not to go the same way each time?
she misses the Texas town
where her Granny ran naked down the street
her Mama kept the Tree lit all year

From The Vast Unknowing Infinity Publishing, 2013

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