Lorenzo Thomas


  Back in the Day



When we were boys
We called each other "Man"
With a long n
Pronounced as if a promise

We wore felt hats
That took a month to buy
In small installments
Shiny Florsheim or Stacy Adams shoes
Carried our dancing gait
And flashed our challenge

Breathing our aspirations into words
We harmonized our yearnings to the night
And when old folks on porches dared complain
We cussed them out
    under our breaths
And walked away
    And once a block away
Held learned speculations
About the character of their relations
With their mothers

It's true
That every now and then
We killed each other
Borrowed a stranger's car
Burned down a house
But most boys went to jail
For knocking up a girl
He really              truly           deeply           loved
               really              truly           deeply

But was too young
Too stupid, poor, or scared
To marry

Since then I've learned
Some things don't never change:

The breakfast chatter of the newly met
Our disappointment

With the world as given


News and amusements
Filled with automatic fire
Misspelled alarms
Sullen posturings and bellowed anthems
Our scholars say
Young people doubt tomorrow

This afternoon I watched
A group of young men
Or tall boys
Handsome and shining with the strength of futures
Africa's stubborn present
To a declining white man's land
As boys always did and do
Time be moving on
Some things don't never change
And how

         back in the day
         things were somehow better

They laughed and jived
Slapped hands
And called each other "Dog"