When you look at me, you see not just a
discarded baby of shady pedigree.
But a baby shuffled from one
Front Porch Monarch to the other,
each trying to mark me, massage their
imprint into my skin with gnarled fingers
in an effort to make me their own.
A love child cradled by my daddy’s callused hands,
rubbed soft with Jergens lotion and Vaseline
after long days of toiling for dimes and nickels.
A country child begat by country folk
who often got pecked by the beak of Jim Crow
but who occasionally got the chance to peck him back.
A blues child who jooked just as hard as the grown folks when
J.W. Warren plucked blues harmonies
in the guise of gospel tunes in order to satisfy
both the tea drinkers and the shine sippers who
all congregated under the Saturday night altar
of stars and vast Alabama skies.
A fearful Colored child who was warned about
the Billy Bobs, Joe Nathans, and Cooter Lees
who whooped it up on back country roads and side streets—
screaming racial epithets that burned crosses into
the souls of the hearer, but in a pinch these men
would do you right – whether you were White or Colored.
But most of all
I am a storyteller who is tied to generations of
other proud storytellers whose
stories I carry in my belly like unborn babies, waiting
for the day when Emancipation comes, so I can
be one of the first to set our stories free.
—Angela Jackson-Brown (Delaware County)
This poem first appeared in Negative Capability Press.
Angela Jackson-Brown is an award winning writer, poet, playwright and director who teaches Creative Writing and English at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. She is a graduate of the Spalding low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing. She is the author of the novel, Drinking from a Bitter Cup, and has published in numerous literary journals. Last year, three of her plays appeared throughout Indiana at local theatres and she had the pleasure of directing two of them.
Poetry Prompt: Where You Are From
Create a self-portrait by describing the place where you are from. How has this place left an imprint on you? You might recall the people—their actions, stories or sacrifices. You might describe elements of the landscape or the culture. Create a poem that revels in sensual details and the music of language.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.