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The Blues

Photograph courtesy of Unspalsh


Some folk think the blues
Is a song or a way
Of singing
But the blues is
A way of telling how
We got here
And who sent us
The blues may talk about
My man
Or my woman
Who left me
Or took my money
And is gone
But what they mean
Is I was stolen 
In an African war
And ignorantly sold
Probably not
Realizing to a new world
But the Lord Is Good
And gave us a song
To tell our story
We sang the blues in the cotton fields
Not to complain
About our lives but to let
Each other know
We are still here
We stirred the blues
In our stews
To give us the strength to go on
But Lord Have Mercy we used
The Blues
To give us joy to make us laugh
To teach us how to love and dance and run
And much more Thank The Lord
How to stay until 
The next day
The blues is our history
Our quilt
The way we fry our chickens
The way to boil our grains
To make us some really good
Something to drink
The blues is our encyclopedia 
And no matter who tries to copy us
Only we know
The real meaning
Of those songs

Nikki Giovanni reads “The Blues”


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Enjoy this poem? Read more from the 18th Southern Music Issue: Visions of the Blues and subscribe to the Oxford American



Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni, the author of more than twenty books of poetry and children’s stories, has won numerous awards, including multiple NAACP Image Awards, the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters, and the Rosa L. Parks Women of Courage Award.