Written by Himself
by Gregory Pardlo
I was born in minutes in a roadside kitchen a skillet
whispering my name. I was born to rainwater and lye;
I was born across the river where I
was borrowed with clothespins, a harrow tooth, broadsides sewn in my shoes. I returned, though it please you, through no fault of my own, pockets filled with coffee grounds and eggshells.
I was born still and superstitious; I bore an unexpected burden. I gave birth, I gave blessing, I gave rise to suspicion.
I was born abandoned outdoors in the heat-shaped air, air drifting like spirits and old windows.
I was born a fraction and a cipher and a ledger entry;
I was an index of first lines when I was born.
I was born waist-deep stubborn in the water crying
ain’t I a woman and a brother I was born to this hall of mirrors, this horror story I was
born with a prologue of references, pursued
by mosquitoes and thieves, I was born passing
off the problem of the twentieth century: I was born. I read minds before I could read fishes and loaves;
I walked a piece of the way alone before I was born.
“Written By Himself” from Digest (c) 2014 by Gregory Pardlo. Appears with the permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.