John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton
jheaton

Poet's Corner: Incident

I didn't have anything in mind to post today, and since it's Saturday, I thought I might post a poem, since that's something I used to do every Saturday for quite a few years. I poked around a bit looking for poems that had to do with Holy Saturday — that's what some people called the Saturday that falls between Good Friday and Easter Sunday — but didn't really find anything, so I hied myself to Wikipedia, to see if any poets had been born or died on March 30. A bunch had done one or the other, but the one that caught my eye was Countee Cullen, mostly because I tend to like the Harlem Renaissance poets but a little because the name reminded me of Adam Countee, who used to write for Community.

So I went looking for a poem by him, and found this one, which I'd read before and, in fact, was convinced I'd already posted. But a search of my archives said otherwise, so I copied it and formatted it just so, and then pulled up Countee Cullen's Wikipedia page to get his dates, whereupon I saw that his article said he'd been born on May 30, not March 30. Say what? There's a lot of confusion about Cullen's early life; no one's quite sure when he was born, nor even where, for that matter. Part of me wonders if may once I'd considered posting the poem, then decided not to when I couldn't confirm the date. Kind of sounds like something I'd do, but the last time March 30 fell on a Saturday was 2002, and I wasn't posting poetry on Saturdays then. Nor much of anything, for that matter; I'd only created my LiveJournal account four days earlier.

It's also possible that I decided not to use it because it contains an ugly racial slur. If so, I'm not letting that stop me this time, but I will hide the whole thing behind a cut so anyone who would rather avoid seeing that word — you probably know the one I mean — can avoid doing so.

[Incident]
Incident

     (For Eric Walrond)

Once riding in old Baltimore,
   Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
   Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
   And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
   His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”

I saw the whole of Baltimore
   From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
   That’s all that I remember.

     Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

 
Tags: poet's corner, this day in history, tv: community
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