Some are teethed on a silver spoon, With the stars strung for a rattle; I cut my teeth as the black raccoon— For implements of battle.
Some are swaddled in silk and down, And heralded by a star; They swathed my limbs in a sackcloth gown On a night that was black as tar.
For some, godfather and goddame The opulent fairies be; Dame Poverty gave me my name, And Pain godfathered me.
For I was born on Saturday— “Bad time for planting a seed,” Was all my father had to say, And, “One mouth more to feed.”
Death cut the strings that gave me life, And handed me to Sorrow, The only kind of middle wife My folks could beg or borrow.
~ Countee Cullen
I ran across this poem by Countee Cullen while browsing through Poetry Out Loud. The orphaned Cullen was a poet of the Harlem Renaiisance, and wrote eloquently of his past and of the challenge of being a smart, educated, black American in a time when too many people still denied that such was even possible.