DARKIES by John Lindley
“I’d rather make $700 a week playing a maid than earn $7 a day being a maid”. Hattie McDaniel.
I’m the savage in the jungle
and the busboy in the town.
I’m the one who jumps the highest
when the Boss man comes around.
I’m the maid who wields the wooden broom.
I’m the black boot polish cheeks.
I’m the big fat Lawdy Mama
who always laughs before she speaks.
I’m the plaintive sound of spirituals
on the mighty Mississip’.
I’m the porter in the club car
touching forelock for a tip.
I’m the bent, white-whiskered ol’ Black Joe
with the stick and staggered walk.
I’m the barefoot boy in dungarees
with a stammer in my talk.
I’m the storytelling Mr. Bones
with a jangling tambourine.
I’m the North’s excuse for novelty
and the South’s deleted scene.
I’m the one who takes his lunch break
with the extras and the grips.
I’m the funny liquorice coils of hair
and the funny looking lips.
I’m the white wide eyes and pearly teeth.
I’m the jet black skin that shines.
I’m the soft-shoe shuffling Uncle Tom
for your nickels and your dimes.
I’m the Alabami Mammy
for a state I’ve never seen.
I’m the bona fide Minstrel Man
whose blackface won’t wash clean.
I’m the banjo playing Sambo
with a fixed and manic grin.
I’m the South’s defiant answer
that the Yankees didn’t win.
I’m the inconvenient nigrah
that no one can let go.
I’m the cutesy picaninny
with my hair tied up in bows.
I’m the funny little shoeshine boy.
I’m the convict on the run;
the nigger in the woodpile
when the cotton pickin’s done.
I’m a blacklist in Kentucky.
I’m the night when hound dogs bay.
I’m the cut-price, easy light relief
growing darker by the day.
I’m the “yessir, Massa, right away”
that the audience so enjoys.
I’m the full-grown man of twenty-five
but still they call me ‘boy’.
For I’m the myth in Griffith’s movie.
I’m the steamboat whistle’s cry.
I’m the dust of dead plantations
and the proof of Lincoln’s lie.
I’m the skin upon the leg iron.
I’m the blood upon the club.
I’m the deep black stain you can’t erase
no matter how you scrub.