Listen, I’m an Agitator

by Don West

Don West

“He stirreth up the people. teaching …”

Listen . . . !
I am an agitator—
They call me “Red,”
The color of Blood,
But do you of the toiling South
Know me?
Do you believe these things
About me?
You croppers, factory hands—
Poor whites, and you youth
Who look
Into a dark future,
You who love
The South as I do—
Do you understand?
Do you see that I am YOU,
That I
The Agitator am
You . . . ?

I am Don West, too,
The poet—
A lover of peace and quiet places
A working man
With rough hands that know how
To toil
When there is work.
But the poet
Is a cry for justice,
The Agitator
Is the restless soul of the
Toiling millions—
Stirring, stumbling, groping
A new world, a world of plenty
And peace!

I am the son of my grandfather,
Of old Kim Mulkey.
His blood burns my veins
And cries out for justice!
I sing to a submerged South,
And she responds
With deep sobs of misery,
She stirs
And anger sets on her lips.

I’m no foreigner;
With calloused hands is foreign
To us!

I’m Jim West’s boy,
The one
Who saw his Daddy die
Overworked, underfed—
With pellagra.
It’s not nice to say that,
To say
We have pellagra
In the South.

But I was raised on a hillside farm
Where my Daddy’s sweat
Salted down the red clay.
I’m the son of my mother
The woman who plods between
The cotton rows—
And I’m an Agitator!

And that means I want bread
And homes
And clothes
And beauty
For all the hollow-eyed babies.
I want songs
On the lips, and joy in the eyes
Of you anxious mothers
Who scrub, and hoe, or weave
In a factory.

Do you hear me?
I love
These things more than I love
Peace and quiet,
Or the gentle murmur of
The Chattahoochee
Dragging our old red hills
Down to the mighty ocean.

I am speaking—Listen!
I, the poet
In overalls, working man,

Last updated November 02, 2022