Thursday, November 8, 2007

"Nikki-Rosa," by Nikki Giovanni

(p. 13)

childhood remembrances are always a drag
if you’re Black
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn
with no inside toilet
and if you become famous or something
they never talk about how happy you were to have
your mother
all to yourself and
how good the water felt when you got your bath
from one of those big tubs that folk in Chicago barbecue in
and somehow when you talk about home
it never gets across how much you
understood their feelings
as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale
and even though you remember
your biographers never understand
your father’s pain as he sells his stock
and another dream goes
And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that
concerns you
and though they fought a lot
it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference
but only that everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good
and I really hope no white person ever has cause
to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they’ll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that

all the while I was quite happy

The insight delights me—how we get wealth and ease mixed up with love and happiness. We do it to ourselves and we do it to others. I like how this poem insists on the dignity of experience. And the possibility of being “quite happy” in an unideal world. The run-on breahtless quality of the lines gives this poem its immediacy and sincerity.
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