Bitty Dean

Itty bitty Dean

So much younger than a teen

Mama cookin’ some peas and rice

Stomach growlin’

Mouth hungry

Can’t find a toy to play with to distract me

No stuffed doll is worth more

Than dem peas and rice cookin’ in oil

Time ticks

Tick tick tick

The door swings open and a man storms in

“Mama!  Help me!” the man called out

Scarin’ bitty Dean as the door swung BAM!

It hit the wall hard

Like reality was hittin’ him

What in the hell was happenin’?


Hushes and whispers and light talk passed through the walls

Hushes and whispers and light talk passed through grown folk ears

Hushes and whispers and light talk passed through to bitty Dean

Bitty Dean

Oh, bitty Dean!

Mama took the man away

He waited in the attic

Bitty Dean

Oh, bitty Dean

Don’t say nothin’ ‘bout what chu seen!


Mama went back to cookin’ dem peas

Noises from the bushes enter the scene

Knocks at the door and behind a big roar

“Where is he?  Where’s Joe?”

“He ain’t here,” Mama said, calm and strong.

“Is that all?  My rice is still on.”

“Where is he?  Where’s Joe, nigger woman?”

“He ain’t here,” Mama said, calm and unmoved.

The man in the attic heard footsteps

Stomp stomp thump thump

His heart was a hard clap

The beat was racing racing racing


All was quiet

The rice almost burned

Mama went to turn the fire off and wiped her hands on her apron

Bitty Dean went to Mama and saw her calm queen-like eyebrow

Rise like the tension in everyone’s nerves and muscles

Another man like the one in the attic

Identical in face and stance

Came in the door and gave Mama a kiss

Bitty Dean got a pat on her head

The men came down to see the man

But knew it wasn’t the one called Joe

The men sneered, left out, and mama turned


Mama turned to bitty Dean

“Bitty Dean, run to your room.”

Attic-man Joe came down

“Boy,” Mama said, “You go.

Go on to your cousin in Mississippi

Go on to your people in another county

Go on to someone who can keep you safe

Go on because you ain’t gon last here long

Go on, Joe

Go on!”


From that day on, Attic-man Joe

No longer lived in Covington anymore

The only thing left of Joe

Who has gone to a home worth prayin for

The only thing left of Attic-man Joe

Who has left us in this earthly realm

The only thing that remains of Joe

That has been corrected on his obituary

Is the story bitty Dean told me

Of a man who actually lived in Mississippi


The thing that makes me tick

Is the stories I hear from my grandparents

Their blood courses through my veins

And everything they remember I feel

As if we were one and the same

I didn’t live during their time of childhood

So don’t get me wrong

I didn’t live during their time of adulthood

So I can’t use their voice to sing this song

The only thing that makes me tick

Is my imagination

My perspective

Of what made them made her made him made me tick

So now I ask you, “What makes you tick?”


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