Knees of a Natural Man

By Henry Dumas 1934–1968 Henry Dumas

for Jay Wright

my ole man took me to the fulton fish market
we walk around in the guts and the scales

my ole man show me a dead fish, eyes like throat spit
he say “you hongry boy?” i say “naw, not yet”

my ole man show me how to pick the leavings
he say people throw away fish that not rotten

we scaling on our knees back uptown on lenox
sold five fish, keepin one for the pot

my ole man copped a bottle of wine
he say, “boy, build me a fire out in the lot”

backyard cat climbin up my leg for fish
i make a fire in the ash can

my ole man come when he smell fish
frank williams is with him, they got wine

my ole man say “the boy cotch the big one”
he tell big lie and slap me on the head

i give the guts to the cat and take me some wine
we walk around the sparks like we in hell

my ole man is laughin and coughin up wine
he say “you hongry boy” i say “naw, not yet”

next time i go to fulton fish market
first thing i do is take a long drink of wine

Henry Dumas, “Knees of a Natural Man” 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)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Henry Dumas 1934–1968

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Class, Cities & Urban Life

 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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Class, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.