Ol’ Woman

by | Feb 4, 2021 | Poetry

You can tell a lot about a person just by looking them in the face: the lines, crow’s feet, wrinkles, warts, and moles are the typography of a life. Tragedy’s wisdom and future’s courage are written there. A young lady, not accustomed to slavery’s venom, speaks with one who has lived it all quite well.

“Mus’ be somedan aw—ful,
huh Misses?”
“What’s dat chil’”
“To be looked down upon,
dats what it is.”

“Tan’t to be, I guess;
Lordie me,
if en I’se off in
dos clouds somewhere,
I’d not know what to do
being up so high-”

“You’d look down on people,
Misses, down on people-”

“Nah chil,
I’d fool ‘round fall
right out dem clouds.”

“Ever been up so high?”
“Can’t say dat I have.”

“Ol’ Misses, you know wat I wanna do?
I wanna run my fingers
through the creases of your
ol’ black face like
dem preddy white girls
play in der long blond ha’r
-dats what I wanna do.”

“Ol’ Misses,
why your face so dark?”

“Da sun did it chil’.”

“Ol’ Misses who drew dos lines
‘round yer eyes?”

“Tears aburnin’ did it chil’.”

“Ol’ Misses,
why’s you got dem bags
under yer eyes?”

“Carried my chillern
der as I see dem tak’n way.”

“Ya say ya chillern live in dem bags –
I can’t see no chillern, where dey at?”

“Ol’ Misses, why your nose
so big an’ black?”

“Filled wid de smell of
life and death
sickness and hate-
dat’s why chil’.”

“Ol’ Misses,
why ya lips so big and brown?”

“So I can open wide
an’ pray to Masa Jesus.”

“Ol’ Misses!
Why der ain’t no wrinkles
‘round yer mouth!”

“Wouldn’t nothing
to laugh or smile ‘bout chil’.”