Winter Is Not As Cold When You’re Young

Back Then
Warm homes were never more than blocks away
in my birthplace’s nest of family.
I’d miss the World, unless I moved away…

Rapelling iv’ry tower, hair in hand
to free myself from witch Academy,
my hunt for 2BR/1B began.

I traced this urbs in horto to Hyde Park,
good city nook for bookish ingénue,
appealing for its Janus-face’ed spark:

its love/hate a familiarity,
a town and gown in jealous tug of war
just right for new-mint, wistful Ph.D.

Plus transit hub of metra, bus and el,
fair trade-off for its parked car odysseys
and golden fleece when it came time to sell.

And best: both urban and small town-ish charm
in patchwork blocks like fabric scraps once bright –
from Joseph’s coat, to lived-in, faded warmth.

But this is not an ode to U of C,
nor myth of smart investment property,
nor fable played along some cobbled streets.

Instead, it is a praisesong for a place
defined beyond its latitude or style;
a crafted kinship it commemorates.

The work of long-lost friend who opened gates
by smithing of herself a master key
and knitting threads to interwoven fates.

Professions, hobbies, hometowns, even names
were ties she used to bind us one to next
until the starter knot was all’s to claim.

We soon found any cause to constellate
to brunch or dance or travel on the spur
or greet and linger at appointed dates.

Our homes became each others’ homes away;
we learned the knicknacks in each living room,
we served ourselves, then put away the plates.

Jobs, health conditions, fundraising campaigns
or hair tips, gossip, New Year’s black-eyed peas –
themes high and low were welcome in the frame.

And purpose not to just commiserate:
we brought and traded ribboned gifts of gab
in soft and tough-love wrap we’d decorate;

our taut minds could toss all up for debate
like on the day I shyly showed a ring,
engagement cheered, we argued hyphenates.

We were true “Girlfriends,” term of broadest range –
Play-Sisters, “cousins”, Mamas, Aunts implied –
new phylum found where love trumped family name.

Far more than some credential poker game
this sisterhood became a source of life
and confidence that I would find my way,

that we would find our way despite the flames
our lives were in, according to the Times
dark-roomed statistics of Black women lost
abandoned by Black manhood that’s been tossed
this kinship slipped the door and picked the lock
pulled back the curtains, showed crepuscular rays.

Beneath years’ weight the sisterhood is strained
as we’ve moved on, moved up, moved out of reach
like some hypnotic cue to diverge ways.

Now when I hear of someone from Hyde Park
I’m made expat to current citizen
and watch lit joy bring jealousy more dark.

Warm homes were never more than blocks away
in Hyde Park, where I found new map to We.
I miss that world, now I have moved away.