Color Wheel

President Obama lives
eight blocks
from where I grew up—
red brick townhomes,
leafy streets,
a place where
people knew
their neighbors.

The day my grandmother ran
into our street
screaming,
The niggers are coming,
the niggers are coming,

I was with my friend Kevin
and we thought she meant
the British are coming!

We looked around
for guys in red coats
with gold buttons.
It was 1968.
Martin Luther King
had been murdered,
people set fire
to the city,
my father was trapped
in his office.

Big Afros. Broken Glass.
Thieves
smashing through
store windows.

My grandfather hated blacks
for religious reasons,
couldn’t stand the idea
of whites and coloreds mixing,
saidIt ain’t right, and Faith means
I don’t have to say why.

Today, the President
opposes gay marriage,
says there’sa ‘religious connotation’
that makes it difficult.
Friends assure me
he doesn’t mean
what he says,
that he’s hedging.

Perhaps.

But when Obama says he’s
evolving
on gays,
I see
dead boys
hanging
the way
blacks
were hung
from trees.

I hear
my grandfather
in the President’s voice.