Incident, by Countee Cullen
Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.
Now I was eight and very small,
and he was no whit bigger,
and so I smiled, but he poked out
his tongue and called me, "nigger."
I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December,
of all the things that happened there
That's all I remember.
I found this poem very interesting.
I noticed that the poem does not express very much emotion or mood, which I think may have to do with the character being eight years old. At the beginning of the poem, the character seems very happy and innocent. As we talked about in class, he is young, and life for him probably is easy and carefree. In the next stanza he encounters a little boy about the same age as him, and is friendly toward him. The boy responds by calling him something. In this moment, it seems like the character is sort of hit by reality. This is his first encounter with the real world, not the world that might be seen through a child's eyes. The fact that there is not much mood expressed by the character in the poem makes me think that maybe he was feeling confused. He was pulled out of childhood into a position which he may have not understood completely. It is also possible that the boy who the character encountered was confused too. They were both young, and he may have just been saying it because he had heard other people say it, and he thought it was alright.
This poem is on a very serious issue, but is written in a way that does not seem very serious. The poem has rhyme and rhythm, which add a childish factor into the poem. I think that if this poem had been from the point of view of an older person, maybe an adult, there would not be rhyme and rhythm, and the poem would be more serious and emotional.
This poem was written in the 60's.