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

Waring Cuney, "Da Jail Blues Song" (1928)

De Jail Blues Song

Ah left ma mother's home
Jess to be wid him.
Ah qit ma mother's home
So ah could be wid him.
An' now de Prison Man
Done took ma poor man Jim.

Forty years is what dey gave him
An' forty years is so long,
A forty years in de jail house
An' forty years is so long,
Why in forty years of time
De bes' gal can go wrong.

Hard luck, hard luck,
Hard luck as Ah can be.
Say hard luck, hard luck
Ah'm hard luck as Ah can be.
Had'nt had dis man a year
When de law took him from me.

Ah'd go drown maself,
But de water looks so cold.
Say Ah'd go an' drown maself,
But de river looks so cold.
What good can a man be
Dat's seventy-two years old?

If Ah had a sharp, sharp knife
An' Ah knew it would'nt hurt,
If Ah had a real sharp knife
Dat Ah knew it would'nt hurt,
Ah'd cut ma head right off
An' bury it beneaf de durt.

But a person dat's dead
Stays dead so long,
Ah say a person dat's dead
Has to stay dead so long.
Ah guess Ah'll git a laundry job
An' sing de Jail Blues Song.

Published in Carolina Magazine, May 1928

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