African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Edna Porter, "That Yaller Gal (La. 1924)" (1925)

Mr. John, listen to me:
Don't pull any foolish stunt.
And don't make another move.
Just keep your hand closed up tight.
Nothing you think of doing
Can ever make me afraid —
Fear died in me long ago.
You may live in the Big House
And own all the land in sight:
But you can't get me, unless,
You come across as I bid.
And hear all I have to say.
You and I are related —
You don't like that do you?
Well, its true, nevertheless.
It doesn't matter to me.
Now that I see things clearly.
Great-grandmother, a victim
With all the rest of her tribe.
Paying the price of slavery
Down thru the generations.
Wasn't I just a love-child.
Killing my mother at birth?
Then grandmother did washings
To send me to school to learn.
To learn that I have freedom
And I belong to myself!
Now, you're standing there begging.
Willing to eat from my hand:
Before, you offered a coin.
Thinking I'd jump at the chance.
Some poor devils would, maybe.
Black-white-red-vellow or brown.
Skin doesn't matter, really.
When a man gets excited.
I know you, you White-Blackguard!
You low "Yaller Gal" Coward!
You're wild about my color.
I can see it in your eyes.
You've forgotten your woman.
Alone there in the Big House —
A wife has a thankless part—
Why, she'll love vou for nothing.
And be happy at the tho't.
But no, you are'nt satisfied.
You want everything you see :
And sometimes you crave blindly
For the very soul of me.
When you were a little boy
They whipped you on mv account :
I wept my aching heart out
While you bore it like a man
And came bringing me candy
As soon as you stole away.
Now, you're grown up and vou come
With that pitiful "two-bits" —
Thinking I'll fall, you cheap-skate!
Well, you've got me dead wrong, see?
Oh, I'm for sale allright, sure :
But its at my price, not yours.
I'll not give myself away.
I'll sell you my stock in trade—
Its the oldest in the world.
You can buy me, yes indeed.
Only let me tell vou this:
Man, you've got to have dollars
With that quarter to get mel

Published in The MessengerApril 1925

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