Food for Thought


We often feel nostalgic and take time for reflection at holiday time. I hope you’ll take some time for this poem. Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 – 1906) of Dayton, Ohio, was first published by classmate Orville Wright. Dunbar is widely acknowledged as the first important black poet in American literature. I read a bit of his work in a black history class in college, but I never came across this piece. I keep reading it again and again to make it sound the way I suppose he wanted it. So special for the colloquial style Dunbar captures, it paints a wonderfully colorful Thanksgiving scene.

Signs of the Times

Air a-gittin’ cool an’ coolah,
Frost a-comin’ in de night,
Hicka’ nuts an’ wa’nuts fallin’,
Possum keepin’ out o’ sight.
Tu’key struttin’ in de ba’nya’d,
Nary a step so proud ez his;
Keep on struttin’, Mistah Tu’key,
Yo’ do’ know whut time it is.

Cidah press commence a-squeakin’
Eatin’ apples sto’ed away,
Chillun swa’min’ ‘roun’ lak ho’nets,
Huntin’ aigs ermung de hay.
Mistah Tu’key keep on gobblin’
At de geese a-flyin’ souf,
Oomph! dat bird do’
know whut’s comin’;
Ef he did he’d shet his mouf.

Pumpkin gittin’ good an’ yallah
Mek me open up my eyes;
Seems lak it’s a-lookin’ at me
Jes’ a-la’in’ dah sayin’ “Pies.”
Tu’key gobbler gwine
‘roun’ blowin’,
Gwine ‘roun’ gibbin’ sass an’ slack;
Keep on talkin’, Mistah Tu’key,
You ain’t seed no almanac.

Fa’mer walkin’ th’oo de ba’nya’d
Seein’ how things is comin’ on,
Sees ef all de fowls is fatt’nin’ –
Good times comin’
sho’s you bo’n.
Hyeahs dat tu’key
gobbler braggin’,
Den his face break in a smile –
Nebbah min’, you sassy rascal,
He’s gwine nab you atter while.

Choppin’ suet in de kitchen,
Stonin’ raisins in de hall,
Beef a-cookin’ fu’ de mince meat,
Spices groun’ – I smell ’em all.
Look hyeah, Tu’key,
stop dat gobblin’,
You ain’ luned de sense ob feah,
You ol’ fool, yo’ naik’s in dangah,
Do’ you know
Thanksgibbin’s hyeah?

– Paul Laurence Dunbar


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