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Neighborhood Magic

A Poem for Norma Flynn
In Steel

In steel she stands
In steel she remains
Each step a calling
Each move a mission
“Marching against Fear”
Marking the red dusty road
Of US Fifty-one
The summer of sixty-six
Feet drumming in dust
Clouding the chants
Repeating lines
Down the chain of resounding calls
From Memphis to Jackson
Signing up voters
The first act of freedom
An integrated future
We walked for peace
We listened to people
We sang for freedom
Through lines of National Guard
Blisters marked our feet
Tensions grew in our shoes
The lines of exhaustion gripped the group
In a kitchen routine
Cries grew, a squabble erupted
As water trickled down
Her nylon stockings
Reflecting centuries of racial tension
Clinging to institutions
We rang out as we marched
Walking through tear gas
Singing for change
Signing up black voters
In Canton Mississippi we were welcomed with riot armor
The invisible line of the KKK
Hidden in stiff uniforms of the Highway patrol
Lining the fields with bayonets in control
While bugs crossed our mouths
We struggled on
Defying the cock roach silence
Writing for peace
“Women Mobilized for Change”
Eight delegates on call
The telegram came stamping the time
Telephone trees rang
In white gloves and hats
We came
Surrounding the block
Of Mayor Daley’s office
Demanding a readdress to the psychological damage
Of a segregated city
We offered our services
To write human policy
Open housing for all became the first
Act of legislation
Then we fought for employment and education
The long battle is not lost
It just needs more work
And the battle of steel hearts
On July 31st the heat rose
A macabre dance
In Marquette Park
Revealing an ugly tide
The racist hats hurled bricks and stones
Turned over cars
We stood six hundred strong
Sunday Strollers for Peace
Marked in blood catching missiles
The avalanche came from every direction
The police colluded with the violent attackers
Releasing the gangs from their paddy wagons
A gentle stroll of black and white
Turned into a battle mall
Confronted by fire extinguishers and broken glass bottles
Hatred gushed from alleyways, parkways and rooftops
Violence erupted unleashing racism in its extreme
The brutality of the sixties
Danced a fearless death at Marquette Park
In the summer of sixty-six
We built these bricks
We lived in these stones
They fire bombed our walls
Destroying the back porch
We were not deterred.
The intersection of Cross Roads
Became our home
The globe rotated in our kitchen
Food from China to Vietnam and Columbia
Tea became a new addition
Our children absorbed diverse perspectives
Global citizens became our moto
The twenty-four hour clock kept vigil
We worked in shifts
For the first black families moving into Beverly
Keeping vigil, keeping the peace
Creating a Beverly where we wanted to live
A desegregated neighborhood in the city
Keeping peace, keeping vigil
We built a community for the future
Snow peak top was a sanctuary
A ski slope on nowhere island
A random ticket
A momento mori
A passage between this life and the next
Our peaceful haven
Connecting us in a single breath
My best friend
A random moment
Singing in songs
A life with friends kept us strong
Always learning, always living
I created a life where I belonged
A life with love, a life with peace
A caring shelter with woman and child
Mary Cassatt, the female painter,
watched over us with a tender eye
A simple suite, a calm rhythm
A drawing room for everyone to enter
A choral chamber resounded the rest.