Musings from My Younger Self: In a Grown Man’s Suit

Photo by ShonEjai on Pixabay

Sometimes, I look at my early poetry and wonder where in the world it came from. I led a rather sheltered life. I wasn’t on lockdown, but I certainly wasn’t allowed to run wild and free. Everyone had a telephone, so my parents knew where I was at all times. My subject matter came not only from what I experienced but for the most part from things I observed or heard–directly or indirectly.

I wrote the poem below shortly after I turned 16–or made 16, as we say in New Orleans.

All these little boys walking around
trying to be grown men.

Smoking grass,
shooting dice,
dropping out of school,
making love, unloving
makes a man.

Employed
by their egocentrism,
they are first
in the unemployment line.

Gambling in the streets
with ill-gotten money.

They are “kool,”
but their tempers are hott!

They have no goal in life,
not an aim
or a dream.

They only want to live
well enough to get by.

They know nothing of
struggling up
a ladder of success.

Success to them is survival.

Sure, I was aware of guys who hung out all day and didn’t go to work or school, but these guys didn’t have girlfriends, “lovers,” or “hott” tempers [that I knew of]. I didn’t know them to shoot dice or smoke marijuana, so I’m not sure where this poem came from–perhaps from the books I read. I was very much into Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin during my teen years, but I don’t think this came from them.

Now that I think about it. . .maybe the influence was Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool.”

My friend, Cy, “wishes [she] knew more of what [I] was thinking when I wrote this because it is not such a positive picture.”

wish I could go back and tell my younger self to take notes on the poems I write, so decades later I wouldn’t have to respond, “I wish I knew too!”

4 thoughts on “Musings from My Younger Self: In a Grown Man’s Suit

  1. Jerry W. Ward says:

    Dear Chandra,
    Worry not about where the poem came from when you were 16; meditate on where you are in 2018 and write. Indeed, write a new poem based on the final line —-“Success to them is survival.” How much of that kind of success is grounded in lack of self-esteem?

    Peace,

    Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

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