Mama Quotes in Brown Girl Dreaming
My birth certificate says: Female Negro
Mother: Mary Anne Irby, 22, Negro
Father: Jack Austin Woodson, 25, Negro
My time of birth wasn’t listed
on the certificate, then got lost again
amid other people’s bad memory.
You can keep your South…
The way they treated us down there,
I got your mama out as quick as I could…
Told her there’s never gonna be a Woodson
that sits in the back of a bus.
Don’t ever ma’am anyone!
The word too painful
a memory for my mother
southern subservient days…
The list of what not to say
goes on and on…
You are from the North, our mother says.
You know the right way to speak.
And I imagine her standing
in the middle of the road, her arms out
fingers pointing North and South:
I want to ask:
Will there always be a road?
Will there always be a bus?
Will we always have to choose
It’s hard to understand
the way my brain works— so different
from everybody around me.
How each new story
I’m told becomes a thing
in some other way to me…!
Keep making up stories, my uncle says.
You’re lying, my mother says.