“Malcolm X Park” by Yvonne



After the urban turmoil of the ’60s summers, Black Oak Park on the western edge of University City in Philadelphia was renamed Malcolm X Park with a bandstand for music, drama, and preachers. In 2019 it became the new focal point for the city’s annual Juneteenth celebrations.

Curbed, a dark bronze matron of the hunt
Held in check a wound-up, spike-haired runt
In her left fist and in her right—two
Docile (one colossal) breeds. A motley crew.
“You babysit dogs?” I winked and presumed
While rush hour wheels of all sorts zoomed
By us, five commoners on foot.
“No. All mine.” How multicultural, I thought.

Then twelve paws sprang—two clogs in tight pursuit—
For the park. Encounters like this uproot
Old superstitions: Black folks do this. White
Folks do that. No household pooch had we. The bright
Heart Mother mourned in her youth’s moody land
Died from chicken bones. Some strange evil hand.
Grown and wed, she had no scraps to spare. No loss fed.
Besides, landlords hated pets. Sometimes, a kid.

Once, a park-bound teen, I babysat Sis, terrified.
Doberman teeth lunged! I spat, “Is he untied?”
Nope. A benched slack rope. His porcelain mistress,
Greener grass on her mind, sighed, oblivious.
Nevertheless, the park turned with the world.
Gone with the wind, bright tiny flowers swirled,
Jazz, gospel, hip-hop planted in their place.
Supplanted? Well … even the Bard now has space.

from Historic Preservation

from Poets Respond
June 21, 2020


Yvonne: “I grew up and still live across the street from Malcolm X Park; the incidents in the poem are true and one of many in a verse memoir-in-progress that deals with the micro-aggressions ordinary Black folks experience every day. The news story attached presents even broader implications.” (web)

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