Thoughtful Thursday: Kevin Young

Thoughtful Thursday: Kevin Young

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday is dedicated to the award winning poet Kevin Young (b.1970). Kevin, whose work has been featured in many Thoughtful Thursdays, is the poetry editor of the New Yorker and the director of New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Prior to that he was the Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University.

Here are three poems which introduce us to the breadth of his talents. “Reward” forces us to examine a slaveowner’s indignant anger as she attempts to find her runaway slaves. “Aunties” gives us a wonderfully accurate view of the power and the glory of the Aunties in our lives. And finally, “Errata” is great fun to read aloud. Share these with your children and enjoy.

Reward

RUN AWAY from this sub-
scriber for the second time
are TWO NEGROES, viz. SMART,
an outlandish dark fellow

with his country marks
on his temples and bearing
the remarkable brand of my
name on his left breast, last

seen wearing an old ragged
negro cloth shirt and breeches
made of fearnought; also DIDO,
a likely young wench of a yellow

cast, born in cherrytime in this
parish, wearing a mixed coloured
coat with a bundle of clothes,
mostly blue, under her one good

arm. Both speak tolerable plain
English and may insist on being
called Cuffee and Khasa respect-
ively. Whoever shall deliver

the said goods to the gaoler
in Baton Rouge, or to the Sugar
House in the parish, shall receive
all reasonable charges plus

a genteel reward besides what
the law allows. In the mean
time all persons are strictly
forbid harbouring them, on pain

of being prosecuted to the utmost
rigour of the law. Ten guineas
will be paid to anyone who can
give intelligence of their being

harboured, employed, or enter-
tained by a white person upon
his sentence; five on conviction
of a black. All Masters of vessels

are warned against carrying them
out of state, as they may claim
to be free. If any of the above
Negroes return of their own

accord, they may still be for-
given by

ELIZABETH YOUNG.

Kevin Young

Aunties

There’s a way a woman
will not
relinquish

her pocketbook
even pulled
onstage, or called up

to the pulpit—
there’s a way only
your Auntie can make it

taste right—
rice & gravy
is a meal

if my late Great Aunt
Toota makes it—
Aunts cook like

there’s no tomorrow
& they’re right.
Too hot

is how my Aunt Tuddie
peppers everything,
her name given

by my father, four, seeing
her smiling in her crib.
There’s a barrel

full of rainwater
beside the house
that my infant father will fall

into, trying to see
himself—the bottom—
& there’s his sister

Margie yanking him out
by his hair grown long
as superstition. Never mind

the flyswatter they chase you
round the house
& into the yard with

ready to whup the daylights
out of you—
that’s only a threat—

Aunties will fix you
potato salad
& save

you some. Godmothers,
godsends,
Aunts smoke like

it’s going out of style—
& it is—
make even gold

teeth look right, shining.
saying I’ll be
John, with a sigh. Make way

out of no way—
keep they key
to the scale that weighed

the cotton, the cane
we raised more
than our share of—

If not them, then who
will win heaven?
holding tight

to their pocketbooks
at the pearly gates
just in case.

Kevin Young

Errata

Baby, give me just
one more hiss
We must lake it fast
morever
I want to cold you
in my harms
& never get lo
I live you so much
it perts!
Baby, jive me gust
one more bliss
Whisper your
neat nothings in my near
Can we hock each other
one tore mime?
All light wrong?
Baby give me just
one more briss
My won & homely
You wake me meek
in the needs
Mill you larry me?
Baby, hive me just
one more guess
With this sing
I’ll thee shed

Kevin Young

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