Gregory Pardlo
Written by Himself

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 movie 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.

 
Found In Volume 38, No. 04
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Gregory Pardlo
About the Author

Gregory Pardlo is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in poetry and a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has also received fellowships from the New York Times, the MacDowell Colony, the Seaside Institute, and Cave Canem. His poems, reviews and translations have appeared in Calalloo, Lyric, Painted Bride Quarterly, Ploughshares, Seneca Review, Volt, Black Issues Book Review and on National Public Radio. He teaches creative writing at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, and lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.