Louie Clay (né Louie Crew)
I deliberately drove home the shortest way
not to avoid the Latino ghetto
and the Christopher Columbus Homes,
long ago evacuated and now “occupied”
by crack heads, prostitutes, and the homeless.
“Since I have moved to Newark, I will live here,”
I insisted to myself, going and coming to work.
Most here don’t have the option of safer,
longer routes. Why should I?
Late-afternoon traffic kept a snail’s pace
in the thick heat of July.
Ahead, several teenagers played street ball,
I bemoaned impatiently, and then I panicked
as I saw three of them, shirtless, tough,
leave the game and head directly to my car.
Have you ever tried to lock your doors
and close your windows without letting folks
around you observe your fear?
I scratched my head to disguise my elbow action.
My right hand crossed my lap to do the window switch.
All the while I looked down so they could not
read the fear in my eyes, praying they would pass me by.
They didn’t. One tapped heavily on the window
I pissed a bit before I saw a familiar face
smiling through the glass. He still tapped.
“Hi, Doc,” he said. “I want you to meet my friends,
Carlos and Juan. Fellows, this is the teacher
I told you about.”
Less than two hours before,
this “thug” was the best prepared in my class
I was the only menace here. I have only myself to fear.
Louie Clay (né Louie Crew) is an lgbtq activist and professor emeritus at Rutgers University. He lives in East Orange, NJ with Ernest Clay his husband for 40 years but legally for only 11 months. He is the founder of Integrity, an international organization of lgbtq Episcopalians/Anglicans. Editors have published 2,341 of his poems and essays. See also wikipedia.org.