Carl Sandburg |
RUM tiddy um,
tiddy um tum tum.
My knees are loose-like, my feet want to sling their selves.
I feel like tickling you under the chin—honey—and a-asking: Why Does a Chicken Cross the Road?
When the hens are a-laying eggs, and the roosters pluck-pluck-put-akut and you—honey—put new potatoes and gravy on the table, and there ain’t too much rain or too little:
Say, why do I feel so gabby?
Why do I want to holler all over the place?.
Do you remember I held empty hands to you
and I said all is yours
the handfuls of nothing?.
I ask you for white blossoms.
I bring a concertina after sunset under the apple trees.
I bring out “The Spanish Cavalier” and “In the Gloaming, O My Darling.
The orchard here is near and home-like.
The oats in the valley run a mile.
Between are the green and marching potato vines.
The lightning bugs go criss-cross carrying a zigzag of fire: the potato bugs are asleep under their stiff and yellow-striped wings: here romance stutters to the western stars, “Excuse … me…”.
Old foundations of rotten wood.
An old barn done-for and out of the wormholes ten-legged roaches shook up and scared by sunlight.
So a pickax digs a long tooth with a short memory.
Fire can not eat this rubbish till it has lain in the sun.
The story lags.
The story has no connections.
The story is nothing but a lot of banjo plinka planka plunks.
The roan horse is young and will learn: the roan horse buckles into harness and feels the foam on the collar at the end of a haul: the roan horse points four legs to the sky and rolls in the red clover: the roan horse has a rusty jag of hair between the ears hanging to a white star between the eyes.
In Burlington long ago
And later again in Ashtabula
I said to myself:
I wonder how far Ophelia went with Hamlet.
What else was there Shakespeare never told?
There must have been something.
If I go bugs I want to do it like Ophelia.
There was class to the way she went out of her head.
Does a famous poet eat watermelon?
Excuse me, ask me something easy.
I have seen farmhands with their faces in fried catfish on a Monday morning.
And the Japanese, two-legged like us,
The Japanese bring slices of watermelon into pictures.
The black seeds make oval polka dots on the pink meat.
Why do I always think of niggers and buck-and-wing dancing whenever I see watermelon?
Summer mornings on the docks I walk among bushel peach baskets piled ten feet high.
Summer mornings I smell new wood and the river wind along with peaches.
I listen to the steamboat whistle hong-honging, hong-honging across the town.
And once I saw a teameo straddling a street with a hayrack load of melons.
Niggers play banjos because they want to.
The explanation is easy.
It is the same as why people pay fifty cents for tickets to a policemen’s masquerade ball or a grocers-and-butchers’ picnic with a fat man’s foot race.
It is the same as why boys buy a nickel’s worth of peanuts and eat them and then buy another nickel’s worth.
Newsboys shooting craps in a back alley have a fugitive understanding of the scientific principle involved.
The jockey in a yellow satin shirt and scarlet boots, riding a sorrel pony at the county fair, has a grasp of the theory.
It is the same as why boys go running lickety-split
away from a school-room geography lesson
in April when the crawfishes come out
and the young frogs are calling
and the pussywillows and the cat-tails
know something about geography themselves.
I ask you for white blossoms.
I offer you memories and people.
I offer you a fire zigzag over the green and marching vines.
I bring a concertina after supper under the home-like apple trees.
I make up songs about things to look at:
potato blossoms in summer night mist filling the garden with white spots;
a cavalryman’s yellow silk handkerchief stuck in a flannel pocket over the left side of the shirt, over the ventricles of blood, over the pumps of the heart.
Bring a concertina after sunset under the apple trees.
Let romance stutter to the western stars, “Excuse … me…”
Chris Tusa |
Marie Laveau, a colored woman who eventually became
known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, often used
her knowledge of Voodoo to manipulate and acquire power.
In one quick lick I waved my mojo hand,
made the Mississippi’s muddy spine
run crooked as a crow’s foot,
scared politicians into my pocket
with lizard tongues and buzzard bones,
convinced the governor to sing my name
under a sharp crescent moon
white as a gator’s tooth.
Now my magic got the whole Vieux Carré
waltzing with redfish and rooster heads,
got Protestants blessing okra and cayenne,
Catholics chasing black cats down Dumaine,
even got Creoles two-stepping with pythons
along the banks of Bayou St.
They say soon my powers gonna fade,
that there’s a noose aloose in the streets
looking for a neck to blame.
But I’m just a lowly colored woman
and ain’t nobody gonna blame a worm
for scaring a catfish onto a hook.
Paul Laurence Dunbar |
Wen I git up in de mo'nin' an' de clouds is big an' black,
Dey's a kin' o' wa'nin' shivah goes a-scootin' down my back;
Den I says to my ol' ooman ez I watches down de lane,
"Don't you so't o' reckon, Lizy, dat we gwine to have some rain?"
"Go on, man," my Lizy answah, "you cain't fool me, not a bit,
I don't see no rain a-comin', ef you's wishin' fu' it, quit;
Case de mo' you t'ink erbout it, an de mo' you pray an' wish,
W'y de rain stay 'way de longah, spechul ef you wants to fish."
But I see huh pat de skillet, an' I see huh cas' huh eye
Wid a kin' o' anxious motion to'ds de da'kness in de sky;
An' I knows whut she 's a-t'inkin', dough she tries so ha'd to hide.
She 's a-sayin', "Would n't catfish now tas'e monst'ous bully, fried?"
Den de clouds git black an' blackah, an' de thundah 'mence to roll,
An' de rain, it 'mence a-fallin'. Oh, I's happy, bless my soul!
Ez I look at dat ol' skillet, an' I 'magine I kin see
Jes' a slew o' new-ketched catfish sizzlin' daih fu' huh an' me.[Pg 173]
'T ain't no use to go a-ploughin', fu' de groun' 'll be too wet,
So I puts out fu' de big house at a moughty pace, you bet,
An' ol' mastah say, "Well, Lishy, ef you t'ink hit 's gwine to rain,
Go on fishin', hit 's de weathah, an' I 'low we cain't complain."
Talk erbout a dahky walkin' wid his haid up in de aih!
Have to feel mine evah minute to be sho' I got it daih;
En' de win' is cuttin' capahs an' a-lashin' thoo de trees,
But de rain keeps on a-singin' blessed songs, lak "Tek yo' ease."
Wid my pole erpon my shouldah an' my wo'm can in my han',
I kin feel de fish a-waitin' w'en I strikes de rivah's san';
Nevah min', you ho'ny scoun'els, need n' swim erroun' an' grin,
I 'll be grinnin' in a minute w'en I 'mence to haul you in.
W'en de fish begin to nibble, an' de co'k begin to jump,
I 's erfeahed dat dey 'll quit bitin', case dey hyeah my hea't go "thump,"
'Twell de co'k go way down undah, an' I raise a awful shout,
Ez a big ol' yallah belly comes a gallivantin' out.
Need n't wriggle, Mistah Catfish, case I got you jes' de same,
You been eatin', I 'll be eatin', an' we needah ain't to blame.
But you need n't feel so lonesome fu' I 's th'owin' out to see
Ef dey ain't some of yo' comrades fu' to keep you company.
Spo't, dis fishin'! now you talkin', w'y dey ain't no kin' to beat;
I don' keer ef I is soakin', laigs, an' back, an' naik, an' feet,
It 's de spo't I 's lookin' aftah. Hit 's de pleasure an' de fun,
Dough I knows dat Lizy 's waitin' wid de skillet w'en I's done.