Freedom of Choice


Young renters in their private civil war,
My parents mixed no cool jazz with the next door
Couple’s mortgage blues. I didn’t play with their son
Long before his flea bite dog steered us clear
Across to the brick wall on our way out or in.

Next door south, two sisters coached sidewalk fun,
Wilson School style, but I never had time to master
Black girl double Dutch. My talent: best rope-turner!
Just nine, I learned Spin the Bottle mere weeks before
We moved. Through other thin walls, how long after
Did I imagine their feet and their laughter?

At Mass Mother kept in touch with the lone
White woman wed to a tan Korean
War vet with two kids at the dead-end
Lumberyard. Daddy never took him for
A beer or football buddy. “He beat her.”
Did Mother snort? Brothers to the bone.
No matter what the color.


The first poetry editor of two pioneer feminist magazines, Aphra and Ms., the poet Yvonne writes fiction under her full name Yvonne Chism-Peace. She has received several awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships for her Iwilla trilogy poems. Some anthologies featuring her poetry are 161 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus), This Sporting Life (Milkweed), Catholic Girls (Plume/Penguin), Pushcart Press Anthology and the ground-breaking feminist We Become New (Bantam).  Current work-in-progress is a verse memoir of the ‘Fifties, poems of which appear in the 2018 Quiet Diamonds (Orchard Street) and forthcoming issues of The WAIF Project and Bosque Press. Of the selected works published in Collateral, Yvonne writes, “Competing with the almighty western, World War II and the Korean War formed the film mythology of my childhood and adolescence. The Vietnam War was real, but all my drafted kinsmen came back and picked up the day-to-day struggles again…just like their more taciturn fathers and grandfathers.”