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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

The Struggle

Albert DeGenova

In Our Lifetime
upon the election of President Obama

We sold our house
to a black family.
In 1965, in Chicago, when the 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.

I believed my father’s explanation
for sneering neighbors:
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 25-foot lot.
This brave 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 has published two full-length poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks. In 2000, he launched After Hours, a journal of Chicago writing and art; he continues as publisher and editor. He is a blues saxophonist and one-time contributing editor to Down Beat magazine. He received his MFA from Spalding University, Louisville.


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