Son of Msippi

By Henry Dumas 1934–1968 Henry Dumas
Up
from Msippi I grew.
(Bare walk and cane stalk
make a hungry belly talk.)
Up
from the river of death.
(Walk bare and stalk cane
make a hungry belly talk.)

Up
from Msippi I grew.
Up
from the river of pain.

Out of the long red earth dipping, rising,
spreading out in deltas and plains,

out of the strong black earth turning
over by the iron plough,

out of the swamp green earth dripping
with moss and snakes,

out of the loins of the leveed lands
muscling its American vein:
the great Father of Waters,
I grew
up,
beside the prickly boll of white,
beside the bone-filled Mississippi
rolling on and on,
breaking over,
cutting off,
ignoring my bleeding fingers.

Bare stalk and sun walk
I hear a boll-weevil talk
cause I grew
up
beside the ox and the bow,
beside the rock church and the shack row,
beside the fox and the crow,
beside the melons and maize,
beside the hound dog,
beside the pink hog,
flea-hunting,
mud-grunting,
cat-fishing,
dog pissing
in the Mississippi
rolling on and on,
ignoring the colored coat I spun
of cotton fibers.

Cane-sweat river-boat
nigger-bone floating.

Up from Msippi
I grew,
wailing a song with every strain.

Woman gone woe man too
baby cry rent-pause daddy flew.

Henry Dumas, “Son of Mssippi” from The Selected Poetry of Henry Dumas, published by Thunder's Mouth Press. Copyright © 1968-2010 by Loretta Dumas and Eugene B. Redmond. Used by permission of the Hentry Dumas Estate, Eugene B. Redmond, Executor.

Source: The Selected Poetry of Henry Dumas (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1989)

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Poet Henry Dumas 1934–1968

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, Youth, Coming of Age, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

 Henry  Dumas

Biography

Fiction writer and poet Henry Dumas was born in Sweet Home, Arkansas, but moved to Harlem when he was 10. He attended City College in New York before joining the Air Force; he was stationed in San Antonio, Texas, and on the Arabian Peninsula. Dumas attended Rutgers University and worked for a year at IBM, then left the company to teach and direct language workshops at Southern Illinois University. He and his wife, Loretta . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Coming of Age, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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