DARKIES by John Lindley
â€œIâ€™d rather make $700 a week playing a maid than earn $7 a day being a maidâ€. Hattie McDaniel.
Iâ€™m the savage in the jungle
and the busboy in the town.
Iâ€™m the one who jumps the highest
when the Boss man comes around.
Iâ€™m the maid who wields the wooden broom.
Iâ€™m the black boot polish cheeks.
Iâ€™m the big fat Lawdy Mama
who always laughs before she speaks.
Iâ€™m the plaintive sound of spirituals
on the mighty Mississipâ€™.
Iâ€™m the porter in the club car
touching forelock for a tip.
Iâ€™m the bent, white-whiskered olâ€™ Black Joe
with the stick and staggered walk.
Iâ€™m the barefoot boy in dungarees
with a stammer in my talk.
Iâ€™m the storytelling Mr. Bones
with a jangling tambourine.
Iâ€™m the Northâ€™s excuse for novelty
and the Southâ€™s deleted scene.
Iâ€™m the one who takes his lunch break
with the extras and the grips.
Iâ€™m the funny liquorice coils of hair
and the funny looking lips.
Iâ€™m the white wide eyes and pearly teeth.
Iâ€™m the jet black skin that shines.
Iâ€™m the soft-shoe shuffling Uncle Tom
for your nickels and your dimes.
Iâ€™m the Alabami Mammy
for a state Iâ€™ve never seen.
Iâ€™m the bona fide Minstrel Man
whose blackface wonâ€™t wash clean.
Iâ€™m the banjo playing Sambo
with a fixed and manic grin.
Iâ€™m the Southâ€™s defiant answer
that the Yankees didnâ€™t win.
Iâ€™m the inconvenient nigrah
that no one can let go.
Iâ€™m the cutesy picaninny
with my hair tied up in bows.
Iâ€™m the funny little shoeshine boy.
Iâ€™m the convict on the run;
the nigger in the woodpile
when the cotton pickinâ€™s done.
Iâ€™m a blacklist in Kentucky.
Iâ€™m the night when hound dogs bay.
Iâ€™m the cut-price, easy light relief
growing darker by the day.
Iâ€™m the â€œyessir, Massa, right awayâ€
that the audience so enjoys.
Iâ€™m the full-grown man of twenty-five
but still they call me â€˜boyâ€™.
For Iâ€™m the myth in Griffithâ€™s movie.
Iâ€™m the steamboat whistleâ€™s cry.
Iâ€™m the dust of dead plantations
and the proof of Lincolnâ€™s lie.
Iâ€™m the skin upon the leg iron.
Iâ€™m the blood upon the club.
Iâ€™m the deep black stain you canâ€™t erase
no matter how you scrub.