Claude McKay's Early Poetry (1911-1922): A Digital Collection

Jim at Sixteen

Corpy, it pinch me so,
   De bloomin' ole handcuff;
A dun no warra mek
   You put it on so rough. 

Many a póliceman
   Hab come to dis before;
Dem slip same like a me,
   An' pass t'rough lock-up door.
Mumma, no bodder cry,
   It should an hotter be;
I wouldn' heed you when
   You use' fe talk to me. 

I run away from you
   Same as I tu'n out school,
'Caus'n a didn' want
   To stan' under no rule.

An' though you send fe me,
   A wouldn' face de home;
Yet still dem find you quick
   Same as de trouble come.

Mumma, I know quite well
   You' lub fe me is 'trong;
Yet still you don't a go
   Join wid me in a wrong.
An' so I won't beg you
   To pay fe me to-day;
I'll bear me punishment,
   'Twill teach me to obey

* * * * * * * * * *
Mumma, you' Jim get 'way
   An' come back home to you,
An' ask you to forgive
   Him all o' whe' him do.

I want you to feget
   Dat I disgrace de name,
An' cause de ole fam'ly
   To look 'pon me wid shame. 

You come an' beg de judge
   Before dem call fe me,
An' walk by de back gate,
   T'inkin' I wouldn' see. 

But 'fore him let me go,
   Him lectur' me, mumma,
Tellin' me how I mus'
   Try no fe bruk de law

Mumma, I feel it, but
   No eye-water caan' drop:
Yet I wish dat it could,
   For me breat' partly 'top.

So, mumma, I come back
   Again to be your boy,
An' ever as before
   To fill you' heart wid joy. 

NOTE BY THE AUTHOR. -- On Friday I went to Court on duty for the third time since my enlistment. I happened to escort a prisoner, a stalwart young fellow, and as I was putting on the handcuff, which was rather small, it pinched him badly, making a raw wound. And yet he was so patient, saying he knew that I could not help it. Although it was accidentally done, I felt so sad and ashamed. The above poem grew out of this incident. 


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