Odyssey of Big Boy

Lemme be wid Casey Jones,
    Lemme be wid Stagolee,
Lemme be wid such like men
    When Death takes hol’ on me,
        When Death takes hol’ on me. . . .

Done skinned as a boy in Kentucky hills,
    Druv steel dere as a man,
Done stripped tobacco in Virginia fiel’s
    Alongst de River Dan,
        Alongst de River Dan;

Done mined de coal in West Virginia
    Liked dat job jes’ fine
Till a load o’ slate curved roun’ my head
    Won’t work in no mo’ mine,
        Won’t work in no mo’ mine;

Done shocked de corn in Marylan’,
    In Georgia done cut cane,
Done planted rice in South Caline,
    But won’t do dat again
        Do dat no mo’ again.

Been roustabout in Memphis,
    Dockhand in Baltimore,
Done smashed up freight on Norfolk wharves
    A fust class stevedore,
        A fust class stevedore. . . . 

Done slung hash yonder in de North
    On de ole Fall River Line
Done busted suds in li’l New Yawk
    Which ain’t no work o’ mine—
        Lawd, ain’t no work o’ mine.

Done worked and loafed on such like jobs
    Seen what dey is to see
Done had my time with a pint on my hip
    An’ a sweet gal on my knee
        Sweet mommer on my knee:

Had stovepipe blonde in Macon
    Yaller gal in Marylan’
In Richmond had a choklit brown
    Called me huh monkey man—
        Huh big fool monkey man.

Had two fair browns in Arkansaw
    And three in Tennessee
Had Creole gal in New Orleans
    Sho Gawd did two time me—
        Lawd two time, fo’ time me—

But best gal what I evah had
    Done put it over dem
A gal in Southwest Washington
    At Four’n half and M—
        Four’n half and M. . . .

Done took my livin’ as it came
    Done grabbed my joy, done risked my life
Train done caught me on de trestle
    Man done caught me wid his wife
        His doggone purty wife. . . .

I done had my women,
    I done had my fun
Cain’t do much complainin’
    When my jag is done,
        Lawd, Lawd, my jag is done.

An’ all dat Big Boy axes
    When time comes fo’ to go
Lemme be wid John Henry, steel drivin’ man
        Lemme be wid ole Jazzbo;
            Lemme be wid ole Jazzbo. . . .

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.