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Jacqueline Woodson reads "Tobacco", from her memoir Brown Girl Dreaming.

Brought to you by Complexly, The Poetry Foundation, and poet Paige Lewis. Learn more: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/

Jacqueline Woodson:
https://www.jacquelinewoodson.com/
https://twitter.com/JackieWoodson

Poem:
Tobacco, read from Brown Girl Dreaming: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/304851/brown-girl-dreaming-by-jacqueline-woodson/
Copyright © 2014 by Jacqueline Woodson

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My name is Jacqueline Woodson and I am reading the poem "Tobacco" from my memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. And I chose this poem because it's about my grandfather and I loved him a lot and this poem helps me to remember him.

tobacco

Summer is over, a kiss
of chill in the southern air.  We see the dim orange
of my grandfather's cigarette, as he makes his way
down the darkening road.  Hear his evening greetings
and the coughing that follows them.
Not enough breath left now 
to sing so I sing for him, in my head
where only I can hear.

Where will the wedding supper be?
Way down yonder in a hollow tree.  Uh hmmm...

The old people used to say
a pinch of dirt in the mouth
can tell tobacco's story:
what crops
are ready for picking
what needs to be left to grow.
What soil is rich enough for planting
and the patches of land that need
a year of rest.

I do not know yet
how sometimes the earth makes a promise
it can never keep.  Tobacco fields
lay fallow, crops picked clean.
My grandfather coughs again
and the earth waits

for what and who it will get in return.