Verse > Anthologies > James Weldon Johnson, ed. > The Book of American Negro Poetry
See also: Claude McKay Biography
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
James Weldon Johnson, ed. (1871–1938).  The Book of American Negro Poetry.  1922.
 
Two-an’-Six
 
Claude McKay (1890–1948)
 
 
MERRY voices chatterin’,
Nimble feet dem patterin’,
Big an’ little, faces gay,
Happy day dis market day.
 
Sateday, de marnin’ break,        5
Soon, soon market-people wake;
An’ de light shine from de moon
While dem boy, wid pantaloon
Roll up obey dem knee-pan,
’Tep across de buccra lan’        10
To de pastur whe’ de harse
Feed along wid de jackass,
An’ de mule cant’ in de track
Wid him tail up in him back,
All de ketchin’ to defy,        15
No ca’ how dem boy might try.
 
In de early marnin’-tide,
When de cocks crow on de hill
An’ de stars are shinin’ still,
Mirrie by de fireside        20
Hots de coffee for de lads
Comin’ ridin’ on de pads
T’rown across dem animul—
Donkey, harse too, an’ de mule,
Which at last had come do’n cool.        25
On de bit dem hol’ dem full:
Racin’ ober pastur’ lan’,
See dem comin’ ebery man,
Comin’ fe de steamin’ tea
Ober hilly track an’ lea.        30
 
Hard-wuk’d donkey on de road
Trottin’ wid him ushal load,
Hamper pack’ wi’ yam an’ grain,
Sour-sop, and Gub’nor cane.
 
Cous’ Sun sits in hired dray,        35
Drivin’ ’long de market way;
Whole week grindin’ sugar cane
Trough de boilin’ sun an’ rain,
Now, a’ter de toilin’ hard,
He goes seekin’ his reward,        40
While he’s thinkin’ in him min’
Of de dear ones lef’ behin’,
Of de loved though ailin’ wife,
Darlin’ treasure of his life,
An’ de picknies, six in all,        45
Whose ’nuff burdens ’pon him fall:
Seben lovin’ ones in need,
Seben hungry mouths fe feed;
On deir wants he thinks alone,
Neber dreamin’ of his own,        50
But gwin’ on wid joyful face
Till him re’ch de market-place.
 
Sugar bears no price to-day,
Though it is de mont’ o’ May,
When de time is hellish hot,        55
An’ de water cocoanut
An’ de cane bebridge is nice,
Mix’ up wid a filly ice.
Big an’ little, great an’ small,
Afou yam is all de call;        60
Sugar tup an’ gill a quart,
Yet de people hab de heart
Wantin’ brater top o’ i’,
Want de sweatin’ higgler fe
Ram de pan an’ pile i’ up,        65
Yet sell i’ fe so-so tup.
 
Cousin Sun is lookin’ sad,
As de market is so bad;
’Pon him han’ him res’ him chin,
Quietly sit do’n thinkin’        70
Of de loved wife sick in bed,
An’ de children to be fed—
What de laborers would say
When dem know him couldn’ pay;
Also what about de mill        75
Whe’ him hire from ole Bill;
So him think, an’ think on so,
Till him t’oughts no more could go.
 
Then he got up an’ began
Pickin’ up him sugar-pan:        80
In his ears rang trough de din
“Only two-an’-six a tin’.”
What a tale he’d got to tell,
How bad, bad de sugar sell!
Tekin’ out de lee amount,        85
Him set do’n an’ begin count
All de time him min’ deh doubt
How expenses would pay out;
Ah, it gnawed him like de ticks,
Sugar sell fe two-an’-six!        90
 
So he journeys on de way,
Feelin’ sad dis market day;
No e’en buy a little cake
To gi’e baby when she wake,—
Passin’ ’long de candy-shop        95
’Douten eben mek a stop
To buy drops fe las’y son,
For de filly cash nea’ done.
So him re’ch him own a groun’,
An’ de children scamper roun’,        100
Each one stretchin’ out him han’,
Lookin’ to de poor sad man.
 
Oh, how much he felt de blow,
As he watched dem face fall low,
When dem wait an’ nuttin’ came        105
An’ drew back deir han’s wid shame!
But de sick wife kissed his brow:
“Sun, don’t get down-hearted now;
Ef we only pay expense
We mus’ wuk we common-sense,        110
Cut an’ carve, an’ carve an’ cut,
Mek gill sarbe fe quattiewut;
We mus’ try mek two ends meet
Neber mind how hard be it.
We won’t mind de haul an’ pull,        115
While dem pickny belly full.”
 
An’ de shadow lef’ him face,
An’ him felt an inward peace,
As he blessed his better part
For her sweet an’ gentle heart:        120
“Dear one o’ my heart, my breat’,
Won’t I lub you to de deat’?
When my heart is weak an’ sad,
Who but you can mek it glad?”
 
So dey kissed an’ kissed again,        125
An’ deir t’oughts were not on pain,
But was ’way down in de sout’
Where dey’d wedded in deir yout’,
In de marnin’ of deir life
Free from all de grief an’ strife,        130
Happy in de marnin’ light,
Never thinkin’ of de night.
 
So dey k’lated eberyt’ing;
An’ de profit it could bring,
A’ter all de business fix’,        135
Was a princely two-an’-six.
 

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