By Gwendolyn Brooks
I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.
I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.
They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).
But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.
Gwendolyn Brooks, “a song in the front yard” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1963 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of Gwendolyn Brooks.
Source: Selected Poems (1963)
Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, though she spent most of her life on Chicago’s south side, whose Bronzeville neighborhood she memorialized in her poetry. She received the Pulitzer Prize — the first African American so honored — for Annie Allen in 1950. At age 68 Brooks was the first black woman appointed Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Later she served as Poet Laureate of Illinois, personally funding literary award ceremonies and visiting grade schools, colleges, universities, prisons, hospitals, and drug rehabilitation centers. She was devoted to encouraging young people to write.
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