Birthday Poem By Al Young

First light of day in Mississippi
son of laborer & of house wife
it says so on the official photostat
not son of fisherman & child fugitive
from cottonfields & potato patches
from sugarcane chickens & well-water
from kerosene lamps & watermelons
mules named jack or jenny & wagonwheels,
 
years of meaningless farm work
work Work WORK WORK WORK—
“Papa pull you outta school bout March
to stay on the place & work the crop”
—her own earliest knowledge
of human hopelessness & waste
 
She carried me around nine months
inside her fifteen year old self
before here I sit numbering it all
 
How I got from then to now
is the mystery that could fill a whole library
much less an arbitrary stanza
 
But of course you already know about that
from your own random suffering
& sudden inexplicable bliss

Al Young, “Birthday Poem” from The Blues Don’t Change. Copyright © 1982 by Al Young. Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press.

Source: The Blues Don’t Change (Louisiana State University Press, 1982)

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