Steel Against Steel

February 18, 2015
Richard M. Berlin, MD
Volume 32, Issue 2

On the cracked macadam court in the shadow of The Castle on the Hill, below fake gun turrets built with bricks...

On the cracked macadam court

in the shadow of The Castle on the Hill,

below fake gun turrets built with bricks

years before our town cared about the two

sides of the New York Central tracks,

we played games where our colors were skins

or shirts, and gravity made us equal.

I was class president, a white boy

who could hit jump shots from fifteen feet

but never had the legs to reach the rim.

I learned the walk, the jive talk, how to pass,

lace my shoes, throw an elbow, learned

about dope and fourteen-year-old fathers,

pushed Afro’d boys for position under

a hole in the sky, guarded their Black Door

at the entrance to our school with its blown up

toilets, burnt out teachers and kids who called

me nigger-lover. Twice a day I high-fived

my way in and out, and they let me through

without a slap on the back of my head

or a knife at my throat in the schoolyard.

I can still smell the fear on both sides

of the bullet-proof glass, the sound of steel

against steel when the door slammed shut.