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from Things I Don’t Miss From My Youth

By A.B. Spellman

3. Not Knowing Better

florene barco moved
to philadelphia &
on a visit home told
us she went
to school with
white kids

it was a lunar image

everything shouted
to us
the patterns
we walked. the ease
with which they
commanded. that
we could not live

by the river
word of lynching
farther south & of course
the signs. i
thought it all to be
as much of nature
as the night sky
the birds of the air

the notion of place
meant not where
you stood but how
you talked
to a white man

place was
the wet brown earth
your knees
sank down in

& philadelphia
was the crescent

Added: Wednesday, June 25, 2014  /  Excerpt from “Things I Don’t Miss from My Youth” from Things I Must Have Known (2008). Used with permission.
A.B. Spellman

A.B. Spellman is an author, poet, critic, and lecturer. He has published numerous books and articles on the arts, including Art Tatum: A Critical Biography (a chapbook), The Beautiful Days (poetry), and Four Lives in the Bebop Business, now available as Four Jazz Lives (University of Michigan Press). His poetry collection, Things I Must Have Known, was recently was published by Coffee House Press. Mr. Spellman has served on numerous arts panels, including the Africa Diaspora Advisory Group and the Advisory Group on the African-American Museum for the Smithsonian Institution. In recognition of Spellman’s commitment and service to jazz, the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005 named one of its prestigious Jazz Masters awards the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy. In March 2006 he received the Benny Golson Award from Howard University for his service to jazz. He was a poet-in-residence at Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia, where he taught various courses in African-American culture, and at Emory, Rutgers, and Harvard Universities, where he offered courses in modern poetry, creative writing, and jazz.

Other poems by this author