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

Sterling A. Brown, "Odyssey of Big Boy" (1927)

LEMME be wid Casey Jones,
Lemme be wid Stagolee,
Lemme be wid such like men
When Death takes hol' on me,
When Death takes hol' on me. ...
Done skinned as a boy in Kentucky hills,
Druv steel dere as a man,
Done stripped tobacco in Virginia fiels'
Alongst de River Dan,
Alongst de River Dan;
Done mined de coal in West Virginia
Liked dat job jes' fine
Till a load o' slate curved roun' my head
Won't work in no mo' mine,
Won't work in no mo' mine;
Done shocked de corn in Marylan,
In Georgia done cut cane,
Done planted rice in South Caline,
But won't do dat again
Do dat no mo' again.
Been roustabout in Memphis,
Dockhand in Baltimore,
Done smashed up freight on Norfolk wharves
A fust class stevedore,
A fust class stevedore. ...
Done slung hash yonder in de North
On de ole Fall River Line
Done busted suds in li'l New Yawk
Which ain't no work o' mine-
Lawd, ain't no work o’mine;
Done worked and loafed on such like jobs
Seen what dey is to see
Done had my time with a pint on my hip
An' a sweet gal on my knee
Sweet mommer on my knee:
Had stovepipe blonde in Macon
Yaller gal in Marylan
In Richmond had a choklit brown
Called me huh monkey man-
Huh big fool monkey man
Had two fair browns in Arkansaw
And three in Tennessee
Had Creole gal in New Orleans
Sho Gawd did two time me
Lawd two time, fo’ time me
But best gal what I evah had
Done put it over dem
A gal in Southwest Washington
At Four'n half and M--
Four'n half and M. ...
Done took my livin' as it came
Done grabbed my joy, done risked my life
Train done caught me on de trestle
Man done caught me wid his wife
His doggone purty wife ...
I done had my women,
I done had my fun
Cain't do much complainin'
When my jag is done,
Lawd, Lawd, my jag is done.
An' all dat Big Boy axes
When time comes fo' to go
Lemme be wid John Henry, steel drivin' man
Lemme be wid ole Jazzbo;
Lemme be wid ole Jazzbo....

Published in Caroling Dusk, 1927

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