Written by Himself

By Gregory Pardlo b. 1968 Gregory Pardlo
I was born in minutes in a roadside kitchen a skillet
whispering my name. I was born to rainwater and lye;
I was born across the river where I
was borrowed with clothespins, a harrow tooth,
broadsides sewn in my shoes. I returned, though
it please you, through no fault of my own,
pockets filled with coffee grounds and eggshells.
I was born still and superstitious; I bore an unexpected burden.
I gave birth, I gave blessing, I gave rise to suspicion.
I was born abandoned outdoors in the heat-shaped air,
air drifting like spirits and old windows.
I was born a fraction and a cipher and a ledger entry;
I was an index of first lines when I was born.
I was born waist-deep stubborn in the water crying
                              ain’t I a woman and a brother I was born
to this hall of mirrors, this horror movie I was
born with a prologue of references, pursued
by mosquitoes and thieves, I was born passing
off the problem of the twentieth century: I was born.
I read minds before I could read fishes and loaves;
I walked a piece of the way alone before I was born.

Gregory Pardlo, "Written By Himself" from The Best American Poetry 2010. Copyright © 2010 by Gregory Pardlo.  Reprinted by permission of Gregory Pardlo.

Source: The Best American Poetry 2010 (2010)

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Poet Gregory Pardlo b. 1968

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Coming of Age, Disappointment & Failure, Time & Brevity, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

 Gregory  Pardlo

Biography

Gregory Pardlo was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey. Currently, he is an associate editor for the literary journal Callaloo and a contributing editor for Painted Bride Quarterly. Pardlo’s poems, reviews, and translations have been widely published and are noted for “language simultaneously urban and highbrow… snapshots of a life that is so specific it becomes universal.” He lives in . . .

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Poems by Gregory Pardlo

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Coming of Age, Disappointment & Failure, Time & Brevity, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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