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Back Then

Negroes walking the white streets
Was how it seemed on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
One morning in 1971 it began.
I converted so to speak on the spot to the Ku Klux Klan.
My big blue heartfelt eyes hid in a hood and white sheets,
Completely ready to burn a cross and buy a gun.
A friend in the DA’s office said it’s a gun or run.
I had thought these particular streets belonged to rich whites,
Almost as a matter of rich whites’ civil rights.
The block on 70th between Park and Lexington Paul Mellon’s sister sanctified.
The always Irish doormen along Fifth Avenue nearly died—
All of a sudden blacks were crossing over the border from their Harlem home
And there were barbarians wandering the streets of Rome.
I knew the man who wrote this poem.


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