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Nikky Finney  
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Brown Country

Why certainly I loves country
am partial to a sad sappy love song
and head back howling for a lost love
I live to the tune of hoping hopelessly
I am country
and drawn to the music of the land
not the red on the white in the blue
but the green and the amber
and the ochre-orange country
Natively black foot
with land earth ocean
where fathers and their mothers smoldered
in the name of the Union
how come ain't no sad country songs
about Indians being holocausted
or Africans jumping the broom on Sundays
for to never see their Sweety again
When it's only me
I turn the car radio to it
the spot where God-Family-Country live
through the silence a voice laughs asking
"You ain't really gonna listen to that are you?"
Yeah Good Buddy I'm listening
so let the chips fall where they may
Because I do
do so love the brown and the black
of the red on the white in the blue

Does loving country and craving a song
that brings my own black-balled eyes
up to the depth of my haunted-hunted heart
does that make me a country music fan
a natural for sorrow
a Charlene Pride of poetry
a black country singer
with acoustic and eraser
plucking a nappy live wire

I who sing along with the twanging
of the car radio
with country songs
when nobody is listening
how do you explain being African
and loving country
not the red or the white in the blue
but the green and the amber and the ochre-orange
You never explain
just let the good times roll

Carolina born
so I seen it all
from sea to shining sea island
I play it back to you
with a pencil sharp guitar
and hambone hard with the other
I come backed by fiddle and calypso
And on certain notes
my gullah starts to drawl

Mercy Me
I’ll throw my head back in a minute
even close my eyes tight when I sing
it’s always something about losing my head
or making up with
Or just plain wallowing in the pain of love
Awww come on now
You know how it goes

I’m no Dolly or Billy Ray
But I sho am country

And when I’m gone
Please somebody feed my cat
and in return I’ll make my voice
low country quiver real good
then roll for you
you laughing but
this really ain’t nothing "shakey bakey"
cause I know folks born in a Holler
who scream all their life
and nobody ever writes a song about them
shouldn’t that be a country’s song too
or is that only poverty
and the private property of Bluesmen
and Plumbleached women
another jurisdiction
another country

At the end of my singing
it’s always so Grand Old Oprey hot
that my mascara’s usually running
and by then the Breck hairspray
has wilted my locks
back to lion size normal
and I’m ready to unhitch my silver buckle
drop my jean skirt to the floor
and find me some indigo
to wrap back around my waist

what more do I have to do to prove it
I tell you it’s true I am a black country singer
Cause what there is for me to sing about
Should make you push your beer to the side
and take a walk through some
Black family farm land some
Black burial grounds
now sold and desecrated
by golf ball signs that say ‘Private Drive’
should make you want to know
this singing southerner’s truth
it’s my job living in this brown country
to take you inside of real live heartache
and make you tap your foot long enough
and make you smile at yourself
until you recognize your Daddy’s face floating
in what I’m saying

Until you ask yourself
as you walk away
does she really listen to Country music
or was that just a poem

Oh why am I fooling myself
They won’t never say
I ever sang a good country song
I’m the wrong shade of country
They’ll just be mad
that I never let you forget for one minute
that country, the land, is color coded
and that country, the music, is pretty shady too

the twanging one you always hear
is sometimes sad
but always sweet
steeped in honor and family
and cheating checkered skirts
and the backside of some poor slithering creature
pummeled and stretched
into a pair of roach killing boots
they dance to the sizzling notes that
I just lean and listen to
the long and lazy stretched out lines
about life
but whose life
and whose country

This is not about happy endings
this music ain’t concerning Cinderellas
but stepsisters and sons and pumpkins
and shoes that never fit some feet
and the lonely of life
and how dance it back away
so why does
this Black girl’s iambic feet
always have to doe-see-doe in your face about it
why does she have to sing country music
to herself
along in her car to not be afraid
why can’t she buy a front row seat
and wave to Naomi Judd
singing those too close to Aretha like lines
"I love you so stinking much that
if you ever try and leave me I’m with you"

I love country
for the tender story
for the blazing heart
for the ache and sorrow sweetness
that is always there
for the green in the amber of the ochre-orange
in the red on the white of the blue
that I always feel

Oh what the hell
I am country I like
listening to its sweet tang
linger like a sour apple
baked to the pipes of my roasted mouth

As I drive this back road
I take taste of it
as I pull into this honkey tonk gas station
and pump 5 dollars premium
I sing along until
I hear my radio’s same song even louder now
and look around for the twin source
rolling out a hiked up summertime window
there in the diner next to the station
I know the words but my daddy’s lips freeze
I end my harmless sing-a-long and look up

I fall into dozens of crawling all over me eyes
that accompany the Kentucky Headhunter tune
they are full of catfish and budweiser and quickly
turn into razors swinging in the August air

I feel the blood gushing
cutting the music into
the red then the white the blue of my brown

This place where the cowboy under the hat
spits the color of my mother’s skin out his window
I was taught never to step inside
he knows all this an follows my every move
guzzling down his yahoo drink
he brings his buddies to the looking glass
they zip their pants
up and down like a fiddle
as one of them begins to step away from the rest
I need to pay for my gas and go
but my swinging feet are stitched frozen to my lips
I look away to the woods all around
My grandfather is untying himself from all the trees
He pops and stretches his many necks back into place
He steps toward me
He says I should consider history
the payment in full

Country music is historical
This is the music we were lynched by
These are the hangman’s songs

Nikky Finney



Nikky Finney's books available on

The World is Round

The World is Round

Paperback: 128 pages ;
Publisher: Inner Light Pubns;
(January 1, 2003)




Paperback: 80 pages ;
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky;
(April 1998)




Paperback: 175 pages ;
Publisher: Sister Vision Pr;
(September 1995)


View a video clip of Nikky Finney "we have been oppressed, we have been repressed, we have never been suppressed."(requires Quicktime)
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