Social Justice Poetry

They Were Refugees, Too | A Social Justice Poem by Donal Mahoney

They were refugees, too,
back in the Forties,
settled in Chicago,
learned English,
some a lot, some a little,
found jobs of some kind,
made do like their neighbors
until things got better.

And by the Seventies,
on hot summer nights
they were loud and happy
gathering on Morse Avenue
around parking meters
in the dying sunlight
outside one of the delis
lining the street
to argue about the Cubs
or politics or anything
they could disagree upon.
If someone made a point
someone else made
a counterpoint.

Arguments squared off
with cab driver against lawyer,
handyman against accountant,
all of them equal as a people.
They were survivors of the holocaust,
some with forearm tattoos
shouting under short sleeve shirts,
others with tattoos silent under
long sleeves worn to the office
that day with a tie.

Chicago had welcomed them
thirty years earlier and now
they were giving back, working
and sending their children
to college after making a life
and a neighborhood their own.

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