“On the other side of town” by Julie R. Enszer

Preston Dickson,Smithsonian

On the other side of town

We knew the family through music.
The father, a Mennonite minister;
the mother, a pianist. She ran
the church choir. They had been
on missions to help the poor.
I do not know what they believed,
other than kindness, dressing simply,
daily piano practice. Their daughters
studied with our piano instructor;
both played the violin.
They were older than I and my sisters.
They had two adopted brothers,
younger, African-American.
This family disturbed my mother.
Their piety, perhaps, but more
where they lived—
in the Black part of town
near the hospital where she worked,
where car doors must always be locked.
Both boys spoke perfect English,
my mother would concede, but
the girls also could speak Black vernacular.
I envied the ways their tongues
helped them fit in.
I remember my mother saying
It’s a shame for those girls.
That’s all they know.
They think it’s normal;
and this she would whisper,
they will probably grow up
and marry Black men.
None of us knew then—
we could not even imagine—
I would grow up,
marry a Black lesbian.



julie e. poet (2)

Julie R. Enszer, PhD, is the author of four poetry collections, Avowed (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016), Lilith’s Demons (A Midsummer Night’s Press 2015), Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013) and Handmade Love (A Midsummer Night’s Press 2010). She is editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker (Sinister Wisdom/A Midsummer Night’s Press 2016), which won the 2017 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry and Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry (A Midsummer Night’s Press 2011), which was a finalist for the 2012 Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. Enszer edits and publishes Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and is a regular book reviewer.