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The Ballad of Rudolph Reed

 Rudolph Reed was oaken.
His wife was oaken too.
And his two good girls and his good little man Oakened as they grew.
"I am not hungry for berries.
I am not hungry for bread.
But hungry hungry for a house Where at night a man in bed "May never hear the plaster Stir as if in pain.
May never hear the roaches Falling like fat rain.
"Where never wife and children need Go blinking through the gloom.
Where every room of many rooms Will be full of room.
"Oh my home may have its east or west Or north or south behind it.
All I know is I shall know it, And fight for it when I find it.
" The agent's steep and steady stare Corroded to a grin.
Why you black old, tough old hell of a man, Move your family in! Nary a grin grinned Rudolph Reed, Nary a curse cursed he, But moved in his House.
With his dark little wife, And his dark little children three.
A neighbor would look, with a yawning eye That squeezed into a slit.
But the Rudolph Reeds and children three Were too joyous to notice it.
For were they not firm in a home of their own With windows everywhere And a beautiful banistered stair And a front yard for flowers and a back for grass? The first night, a rock, big as two fists.
The second, a rock big as three.
But nary a curse cursed Rudolph Reed.
(Though oaken as man could be.
) The third night, a silvery ring of glass.
Patience arched to endure, But he looked, and lo! small Mabel's blood Was staining her gaze so pure.
Then up did rise our Roodoplh Reed And pressed the hand of his wife, And went to the door with a thirty-four And a beastly butcher knife.
He ran like a mad thing into the night And the words in his mouth were stinking.
By the time he had hurt his first white man He was no longer thinking.
By the time he had hurt his fourth white man Rudolph Reed was dead.
His neighbors gathered and kicked his corpse.
"Nigger--" his neighbors said.
Small Mabel whimpered all night long, For calling herself the cause.
Her oak-eyed mother did no thing But change the bloody gauze.

Poem by Gwendolyn Brooks
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Book: Shattered Sighs