Poem: “This Yes”

When the federal government required the mills of Cohoes to hire “colored”
workers or lose war contracts, the mills relented but Cohoes maintained its
segregation. Workers of color settled across the river in North Troy.

I cross the rivers people crossed to get to work: Hudson
then Mohawk coming, Mohawk
then Hudson going.

I can’t feel it: river as moat, bridge as fence, labor as white
privilege; can’t hate Cohoes the way red-lined lives
must have hated

The day I moved in a Black girl of five or six stopped to chat
and chatting asked, “Will you live here
the rest of your life?”
I felt

invited, invoked. Oh shaded streets! Oh confluence of rivers
great and great! Her mother and I touched glances
over her head in silent, cynical assessment:

is no place to live a whole life. But didn’t dappled shade,
enthusiastic child, even silent, cynical
agreement disagree?

Scenic Cohoes, I felt this yes.

Elizabeth Gordon is a slam poet who has performed and competed nationally since 2011. Her first full collection of poetry, "Love Cohoes," was published in 2014.


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