Privilege

We did not know we were the gold,
but passage was not ours
for the asking.

But having arrived at the threshold
we were instructed to wait
patiently for inspection.

Our mothers said,
Take care to wash under your fingernails.
Whatever mud might have stained your shoes,
a clean collar might save.

Out fathers said,
Be guarded with your joy, even the ordinary
mirth inspired by birds singing.
In these parts, a whistle is an alarm.

We watched
the easy lope of others
as they linked arms and passed
unhindered through doors.

When they crossed the street,
they were unhurried as swans.
The sun glanced off their gleaming
heads and bodies.
It did not seem to matter
what urgencies there might be in the world.

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