I’m Fly

For Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates 

Some people got two good feet  
and still don’t know what to do.  
My smoothness makes the argument 
for just one. My other leg be long gone  
sacrificed to the cotton gin god.  

They pinned my mangled mess down 
to the kitchen table. Made me suffer more 
under the hand of an unsterilized knife  
with only a cotton bit to bare the pain.  

I got up and spit out that terrible taste  
of Jim Crow and pity. Spun my mama’s guilt  
and worry into a dance that twists past  
the neighbors’ prayer, gossip and stares  
of how he gonna make do with just one leg?  

I strap on my dreams with tux, tails and flair.  
Turn can’t into can without losing time  
not even in my mind. This Fountain Inn son  
done good, I knock beats on wood.  
I’m a worldwide showstopper all right. 

Shout rings around all those two-footers.  
I’m the master of my own fate,  
when the world cut me at the thigh 
I don’t shuffle off in misery,  
I get up on my one good leg and fly.

Copyright © 2016 by Glenis RedmondThis poem appeared in What My Hand Say (Press 53, 2016)Used with permission of the author.