I want to learn to read.
Mas’sa say it do no good–
slaves reading–won’t make
me happy. What I gotta be
happy for? Look at Jimmy-boy,
come down from Maryland, him
can read, been mopin’ ’round
here all day, can’t do nothin’.
Him spoiled, that’s him problem,
like all them other house niggas,
never felt the sun burn him back
raw, never had the white man kick
him to him knees when him stop
to catch him breath, never bent
over the cotton, weight of the
day’s pickings slung over him
shoulder, so long him can’t stand
straight when the work done.
I hear Mas’sa say him gon sell
Jimmy-boy to the rice plantation
down south–that’ll whip him into
shape. Me, I stay quiet, meet my weight,
draw letters in the dirt, brush ’em
away fore overseer catch wind.
© Nortina Simmons