Son of Msippi – HENRY DUMAS

Fortunately, I’m a perennial student. In so many ways I am still the childhood version of myself; always thirsting for knowledge, always wanting to know more. Last week, I finally had a chance to read the New York Times article on Toni Morrison “The Radical Vision of Toni Morrison”and I fell in love all over again. I fell into deep and abundant awe anew but most importantly, I learned so much. One of the things that I learned was about the poet Henry Dumas who I’d never heard of. So I did what I do and researched him. Today, I’m sharing one of his poems. I hope you all enjoy and are inspired.


from Msippi I grew.
(Bare walk and cane stalk
make a hungry belly talk.)
from the river of death.
(Walk bare and stalk cane
make a hungry belly talk.)

from Msippi I grew.
from the river of pain.

Out of the long red earth dipping, rising,
spreading out in deltas and plains,

out of the strong black earth turning
over by the iron plough,

out of the swamp green earth dripping
with moss and snakes,

out of the loins of the leveed lands
muscling its American vein:
the great Father of Waters,
I grew
beside the prickly boll of white,
beside the bone-filled Mississippi
rolling on and on,
breaking over,
cutting off,
ignoring my bleeding fingers.

Bare stalk and sun walk
I hear a boll-weevil talk
cause I grew
beside the ox and the bow,
beside the rock church and the shack row,
beside the fox and the crow,
beside the melons and maize,
beside the hound dog,
beside the pink hog,
dog pissing
in the Mississippi
rolling on and on,
ignoring the colored coat I spun
of cotton fibers.

Cane-sweat river-boat
nigger-bone floating.

Up from Msippi
I grew,
wailing a song with every strain.

Woman gone woe man too
baby cry rent-pause daddy flew.


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