Wednesday, November 12, 2008


by Countee Cullen

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, "Nigger."

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.

I happened upon this poem not too long ago, and thought of it, of course, in respect to the President-Elect. This is one of the few poems that, although written in 1925, is still relevant and moving. As this epithet becomes less and less acceptable, its use makes it more shocking. The poem’s conclusion is heartbreaking, especially imagining the author as an eight-year old child. Ironically, Cullen did not want to be considered or referred to as “a Black poet” but this is his most well-known poem.
(Countee Cullen biography here)

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