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November 20, 2005

Real Friends

I came to Chicago, Jim.
To Mead House at the U. of C.
Somehow friends did we become.
You were Black, beautiful, and gay.
All these things were new to me.
They still are
Things that I shall never be.

With our band we rushed fraternity.
Laconic Lenny, slow-talking Ed, You, me.
And Johnny who one day a doctor would be.
They did not know that you were gay,
But you could not conceal you were Black,
Nor would you.
You wore your blackness so proudly.

The members pulled us white guys aside.
They wanted all of us, but could not take you.
The Greek letters were spread across the South.
The bigots would not yield to let you in.
The process was a blackball called.
What petty irony.
I believed them in their sincerity.

No difference should this have made to me,
And yet it did; I wanted so badly to be accepted.
You said, "Go with them, I have often been rejected."
I agonized, then I rationalized.
You never even sighed.
I went my way.
I had to turn from someone, didn't I?

I failed you, but instantly you forgave me.
Gave me permission to be mean-spirited.
So I went my way, Jim, with regret.
While you remained black, and blue, and gay.
But never again could forget you.
We went our ways.
Seldom again did you I see.

It was meant to be that way, I said.
Unsuccessfully told myself it was best.
Always knowing it was rationalization.
The cruelest form of self-deception.
We made our choices separately.
We were trapped
In a Big White Lie.

But here is what you did for me:
You helped me stand straighter, face failure.
To fight to seize some better part of me.
To find a me that would not bend so easily
To racist, xenophobic society.
I vowed to change.
Never again turn from a friend.

Never again.

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