Elegy for the American Dream on a Warm Summer’s Day

Photograph by Jose Padua
Walking out for lunch
with my family
in my old city neighborhood
the woman coming our way
using a black umbrella
as a parasol on this warm sunny day
is the mother of Henry,
the kid who grew up on my street—
a dwarf just under four feet
who had good years
and bad years and
who when he was on the run
for going up Georgia Avenue one evening
and shooting a man to death ,
a man who may or may not
have said something about
his size and heritage,
was described in news alerts as
a “possible Hispanic adult midget,”
as if that was all that was
you needed to know about my neighbor’s life
here in the city.
And the woman with the black parasol,
her son in prison
for thirty-five years,
greets us warmly as she smiles
like a subtle rise from the wind,
and remembers me from the old days,
the kid whose house she’d walk by
on the way to the bus stop
or church or the corner store,
wherever it was you went in those days
when we lived near each other
in this beautiful city
and didn’t have far to go.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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