From that first morning in the hall

outside homeroom hour

John J and I joked together, shot pool,

studied in the library, ran laps together

around the practice field

He squashed me to the linoleum

with his huge black hand

if I beamed too long over a grade

I threw trash at his face

when he splattered opinions

out of a mouth full of lunch

We were tight that way

The remains of those hundreds of days

when the only excitement was a fire drill

smile out at me from a stamp sized square

in our high school yearbook,

one of a few dark faces in a class of eighty,

bright with a look that makes hope seem dull:

A face that sobbed on the school steps

the day before a senior party at a white girl’s house,

left off the invitation list for fear

the neighbors would raise hell about seeing

a black guy dancing in a backyard on their block

Even as I swore, “John, I won’t go,”

he shoved me off with his bare elbow,

shoved off into the din of the riotous streets