The Color Line

by Peter Solet

Ronnie and his mother were the first to move across the color line.
Ronnie got shot in the leg ’cause he got caught on the wrong side of the color line.

Blacks stayed on the Harlem River side and whites on the Hudson River side of the color line.
Broadway was the epileptic river in upper Manhattan that was the color line.

Frankie Lyman went to Stitt Junior High like me, on Sugar Hill, across the color line.
They found Frankie dead at 24 in a doorway; he’d OD’d on his side of the color line.

When I was 12 I chased a black kid six blocks on to his turf on the other side of the color line.
That kid and me punched each other out till a white cop pulled me back across the color line.

My father used his fists on me; he was a Marxist, told me I should break the color line.
My father didn’t have to use his fists to get to school, across the color line.

I was fast and knew how to hide but I couldn’t get away from him, on my side of the color line.
As a very young boy I lived in the South where there was a solid steel color line.

Could be Broadway is akin to Langston’s River, running deep below the color line.
My sister married a black man in ’62 and they had to move to where there was no color line.

Could be a dream I dreamed up about myself, but when I first heard Langston read,
I knew it was no dream, that I was seeing light through a crack in the color line.

Peter Solet’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Gravel Magazine, The Great Smokies Review, The Asheville Poetry Review, Quiddity, Ars Medica, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Gliding, was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press. He lives in Madison County, North Carolina with his wife, Katherine, and their requisite one, two, or three cats, depending on conditions.

About The Color Line—The Color Line is based mostly on my experiences growing up in upper Manhattan in the fifties and early sixties. The poem is a Ghazal, a Persian form, and was a class assignment.