Poem: “Aunties” by Kevin Young

0 Posted by - October 4, 2020 - BLACK MEN, History, LATEST POSTS

Kevin Young is an American poet and teacher of poetry. Author of 11 books and editor of eight others, Young has been a winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as a finalist for the National Book Award for his collection Jelly Roll: A Blues. Young has served as Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University and curator of Emory’s Raymond Danowski Poetry Library,

Young was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, Young was the only child of two working parents, his father, Dr. Paul E. Young, an ophthalmologist and his mother, Dr. Azzie Young, a chemist. Due to the careers of both of his parents, his family moved frequently throughout his youth. Young lived in six different places before he reached the age of ten.

Young attended Harvard College, where he studied with Seamus Heaney and Lucie Brock-Broido and became friends with writer Colson Whitehead. He graduated in 1992, then held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University (1992–94), where he worked with Denise Levertov, and received his Master of Fine Arts from Brown University, where Michael S. Harper served as a significant influence.

Young wrote much of his debut collection, Most Way Home, while still an undergraduate. Published by William Morrow in 1995. Young’s collection The Book of Hours (Knopf 2014) won the 2015 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.


By Kevin Young
There’s a way a woman
            will not
her pocketbook
            even pulled
onstage, or called up
to the pulpit—
            there’s a way only
your Auntie can make it
taste right—
             rice & gravy
is a meal
if my late Great Aunt
            Toota makes it—
Aunts cook like
there’s no tomorrow
             & they’re right.
Too hot
is how my Aunt Tuddie
            peppers everything,
her name given
by my father, four, seeing
            her smiling in her crib.
There’s a barrel
full of rainwater
            beside the house
that my infant father will fall
into, trying to see
           himself—the bottom—
& there’s his sister
Margie yanking him out
           by his hair grown long
as superstition. Never mind
the flyswatter they chase you
            round the house
& into the yard with
ready to whup the daylights
            out of you—
that’s only a threat—
Aunties will fix you
           potato salad
& save
you some. Godmothers,
Aunts smoke like
it’s going out of style—
             & it is—
make even gold
teeth look right, shining.
             saying I’ll be
John, with a sigh. Make way
out of no way—
            keep they key
to the scale that weighed
the cotton, the cane
            we raised more
than our share of—
If not them, then who
           will win heaven?
holding tight
to their pocketbooks
            at the pearly gates
just in case.

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