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 bear 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.