In our first installment of Poetry & Playlists, we share work from Jalynn Harris. On the making of this poem and playlist Jalynn writes: “Moms Mabley's comedy albums are timeless—her jokes are limerick-like and full of signifyin'. Her timelessness made me wonder, ‘what if her body was as immortal as her jokes?’ Across the African diaspora, sonic repetition and language play are signatures of Black oral traditions. That's why this playlist rocks heavily with South African house music. Turn it up!”
Moms Mabley at the Apollo 3022
i’m so old my teeth divorced me for the fork
So oldlike when cotton used to pick slaves
& the zodiac asked me to be the 13th sign.
im older than my birthday. so oldlike
Columbus did my first tattoo
& sacagawea asked me what was just around the riverbend
oldLike When rocks used to play marbles.
& im. So. Old. gravity asked me how to hang
(starts tap dancing) Im
So oldmy knees divorced me for them even older women arth & ritis.im
So oldthe leaves on my skirt change colors in autumn
Oooooold the grim reaper begs me not to knock
& oldlike my first stage was an auction
oldLike im the reason Shakespeare likes black girls imsoold
this dance looks like ive fallen and I can’t get up. im
When I was young, a democrat was an elephant & an elephant wasn’t in the room. Im
When I was growin’ up gay was straight &Old.
my motha and my grandmama
& you are oldlike you forgot you gave me this name,
laughing dollars at this auction.