Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

My Mother At The End of Her Days

Enlarge poem

My mother at the end of her days could not see to sign

her name on the dotted line. She could write her name;

It was the line that caused trouble. She had a sweet name,

I cannot deny. So many communal ancestors died trying

to learn how to write. How could impatient haste deny

her the opportunity to honor those dead she would soon

face? I was not the best counselor in those failing days.

Time for the Banker was golden and mighty, still he

could not afford her the time it took to place her name

on the dotted line the Law required. She was forced

to set down Slavery’s strong X. With those two improper

strokes all of her joys were denied. I wept that that

act set a longing in her heart and took from her hand

an accomplished task she had learned long ago.

I am far from that clinical day

and the impolite act I was forced to commit against

a love removed and dying aggressively of cancer

Herbert Woodward Martin

Herbert Woodward Martin

Featured Poem:

My mothers voice

Enlarge poem

Lord child, I done told you a million times

them words youse foolin’ around with don’t make no sense.

Them words is the devil’s work,

you better leave ’em alone you hear?

Here you sit from morning to night,

writin’ down what you think is right.

Whoever told you you had the right to decide bad and good?

It ain’t worth the time of day,

unless it’s going to bring you some silver.

And I don’t see how it’s possible,

for anybody to be payin’ you for somethin’

you done scribbled down like chicken scratch.

And don’t go tellin’ me nothin’ about

what or how much money white people make.

You ain’t white.

And I don’t want to hear nothin’ ’bout no fame.

Attention ain’t no good when you’re dead.

It don’t make no sense.

Furthermore, it don’t make no never-mind,

how much you scream,

or how long and wooly you let your hair grow,

or how many baths you refuse to take.

If you ain’t got no money,

you ain’t got nothin’ to say.

And I didn’t have to go to no fool college to learn that.

I have been walkin’ through this world and learnin’

since I knowed exactly who I was.

So if I tell you I hand dipped snuff, look for the box.

Boy, where is ya goin’? I’m talkin’ to you.

You better come back here and listen.

Lord, Lord, these children are gonna be the death of us all.

Not that we ain’t givin’ ’em plenty of kindlin’ wood.

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Biography

Herbert Woodward Martin, born in 1933, served as professor of English and poet-in-residence at the University of Dayton in Ohio, United States of America, for more than three decades where he taught creative writing and African-American literature. He is the author of nine volumes of poetry and has devoted decades to editing and giving performances of the works of the poet and novelist Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906).

Martin’s publications include:

  • New York The Nine Million, Abracadabra Press, 1967
  • The Shit-Storm Poems , Pilot Press, 1972
  • The Persistence of The Flesh, Lotus Press, 1976
  • The Forms of Silence, Lotus Press, 1980
  • Galileo’s Suns, Bottom Dog Press, 1999
  • The Log of The Vigilante, Mellen Press, 2000
  • Escape To The Promised Land, Bottom Dog Press, 2005
  • Inscribing My Name, Kent State University Press, 2007
  • On the Flyleaf: Poems, Bottom Dog Press, 2013

Editor:

  • Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Singer of Songs, State Library of Ohio, 1980
  • In His Own Voice: The Uncollected Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ohio University Press, 2002
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar: Selected Poems, Penguin Press, 2004
  • The Collected Novels of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ohio University Press, 2009

Herbert Woodward Martin

Biography

Herbert Woodward Martin, born in 1933, served as professor of English and poet-in-residence at the University of Dayton in Ohio, United States of America, for more than three decades where he taught creative writing and African-American literature. He is the author of nine volumes of poetry and has devoted decades to editing and giving performances of the works of the poet and novelist Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906).

Martin’s publications include:

  • New York The Nine Million, Abracadabra Press, 1967
  • The Shit-Storm Poems , Pilot Press, 1972
  • The Persistence of The Flesh, Lotus Press, 1976
  • The Forms of Silence, Lotus Press, 1980
  • Galileo’s Suns, Bottom Dog Press, 1999
  • The Log of The Vigilante, Mellen Press, 2000
  • Escape To The Promised Land, Bottom Dog Press, 2005
  • Inscribing My Name, Kent State University Press, 2007
  • On the Flyleaf: Poems, Bottom Dog Press, 2013

Editor:

  • Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Singer of Songs, State Library of Ohio, 1980
  • In His Own Voice: The Uncollected Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ohio University Press, 2002
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar: Selected Poems, Penguin Press, 2004
  • The Collected Novels of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ohio University Press, 2009

My Mother At The End of Her Days

Enlarge poem

My mother at the end of her days could not see to sign

her name on the dotted line. She could write her name;

It was the line that caused trouble. She had a sweet name,

I cannot deny. So many communal ancestors died trying

to learn how to write. How could impatient haste deny

her the opportunity to honor those dead she would soon

face? I was not the best counselor in those failing days.

Time for the Banker was golden and mighty, still he

could not afford her the time it took to place her name

on the dotted line the Law required. She was forced

to set down Slavery’s strong X. With those two improper

strokes all of her joys were denied. I wept that that

act set a longing in her heart and took from her hand

an accomplished task she had learned long ago.

I am far from that clinical day

and the impolite act I was forced to commit against

a love removed and dying aggressively of cancer

Herbert Woodward Martin

Featured Poem:

My mothers voice

Enlarge poem

Lord child, I done told you a million times

them words youse foolin’ around with don’t make no sense.

Them words is the devil’s work,

you better leave ’em alone you hear?

Here you sit from morning to night,

writin’ down what you think is right.

Whoever told you you had the right to decide bad and good?

It ain’t worth the time of day,

unless it’s going to bring you some silver.

And I don’t see how it’s possible,

for anybody to be payin’ you for somethin’

you done scribbled down like chicken scratch.

And don’t go tellin’ me nothin’ about

what or how much money white people make.

You ain’t white.

And I don’t want to hear nothin’ ’bout no fame.

Attention ain’t no good when you’re dead.

It don’t make no sense.

Furthermore, it don’t make no never-mind,

how much you scream,

or how long and wooly you let your hair grow,

or how many baths you refuse to take.

If you ain’t got no money,

you ain’t got nothin’ to say.

And I didn’t have to go to no fool college to learn that.

I have been walkin’ through this world and learnin’

since I knowed exactly who I was.

So if I tell you I hand dipped snuff, look for the box.

Boy, where is ya goin’? I’m talkin’ to you.

You better come back here and listen.

Lord, Lord, these children are gonna be the death of us all.

Not that we ain’t givin’ ’em plenty of kindlin’ wood.

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

My Mother At The End of Her Days

Enlarge poem

My mother at the end of her days could not see to sign

her name on the dotted line. She could write her name;

It was the line that caused trouble. She had a sweet name,

I cannot deny. So many communal ancestors died trying

to learn how to write. How could impatient haste deny

her the opportunity to honor those dead she would soon

face? I was not the best counselor in those failing days.

Time for the Banker was golden and mighty, still he

could not afford her the time it took to place her name

on the dotted line the Law required. She was forced

to set down Slavery’s strong X. With those two improper

strokes all of her joys were denied. I wept that that

act set a longing in her heart and took from her hand

an accomplished task she had learned long ago.

I am far from that clinical day

and the impolite act I was forced to commit against

a love removed and dying aggressively of cancer

Herbert Woodward Martin

Comments

Your email address will not be published.