by Sterling Brown
Ma Rainey Visions of the South Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
From Cape Girardeau,
Fo' miles on down,
to New Orleans delta
An' Mobile town, (5-6, 14-16)
Well here's a nice cross section of the Mississippi River valley and the Deep South. But what about the rest of America? Would folks come to see her from Albuquerque to Annapolis?
Dey comes to hear Ma Rainey from de little river settlements,
From blackbottom cornrows and from lumber camps;
Dey stumble in de hall, jes a'laughin' and' a-cacklin',
Cheerin' lak roarin' water, lak wind in river swamps. (19-22)
Here the speaker makes a poetic link (with some handy similes) between the behavior of these people and the land they come from. They cheer and laugh like water, and like the wind. But not just any wind—the "wind in river swamps," perhaps like those that line the Mississippi.
'It rained fo' days an' de skies was dark as night,
Trouble taken place in de lowlands at night.
'Thundered an' lightened an' the storm begin to roll
Thousan's of people ain't got no place to go.
'Den I went an' stood upon some high ol' lonesome hill,
An' looked down on the place where I used to live.' (42-47)
Floods are a common occurrence in the Mississippi River valley, and they're something black southerners would be all too familiar with. No wonder there are so many blues songs about it.