I Was Born… Redux

This summer, we present a special series on poems as maps. Read the introduction to the series.

I was born in a house, in the spring
of nineteen hundred and seven,
in Milledgeville. It still stands.
A house built by men, all dead now.
I was born sixty-one years ago
in the spring. I first saw the light of day
in a house built on the south side of town,
in the community named for Solomon Harris.
He was one of the first of us to open
a business downtown. A blacksmith’s shop.
Was a blacksmith by trade and owned
a general store in Harrisburg. I’d buy
licorice and gumdrops there every
now and again. Was a giving man,
they say he shoed many a horse and mule
on a promise. Our school was named
Harrisburg, after the community and him.
His son was a blacksmith too. They both
swung hammers, they dead now. Times change,
it says in The Union Recorder they gon integrate
the high school. Put some of our children
in their school to see what happen. I think
they should get their house in order,
like the Bible say, before we go over there.
My mama said the house was built straight.
My daddy and them, they used spirit levels and dropped
plumb lines before they swung hammers. I first saw
the light of day in a clapboard house, white with blue trim.
All the windows leveled and the doors hung straight
so they stayed where you put them.
Ma Rachel and Granddaddy lived with us for a time.
The house was built straight but over the years
it settled crooked. I was born in that house.
Generations all together in that house, still standing.
Plumb lines hang down straight, towards the center
of the world, straight as a post. Reminds me of my Uncle Eddie’s
funeral, mama’s older brother. He lived in Savannah.
Worked on the docks. He come down with something
in the summer of thirty eight. And never got over it.
I drove mama down in the A Model Ford. It was
a mild day that they put him under the clay,
a week after a big storm. They said he died
in the calm of his bed. After the storm lots of trees
had been blown clean out the ground. The old oaks
didn’t weather it well. In the cemetery a couple
had fallen but the Spanish moss, grey strands like
weathered ropes left hanging in trees, unraveling over time,
hung still pointing straight down like plumb lines.
The house I was born in still stands.

Editors’ Note

“I Was Born… Redux,” by Sean Hill, is from Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 2008). It is reproduced with the permission of the publisher.

About the Series: Poems as Maps

Our series on poems as maps features work by Elizabeth Alexander, Bao Phi, Joanne Diaz, Nikky Finney, Sean Hill, Andrea Jenkins, Douglas Kearney, J. Drew Lanham, Claudia Rankine, Barbara Jane Reyes, Sun Yung Shin, Evie Shockley, and Ocean Vuong.

Sean Hill, “I Was Born… Redux,” Places Journal, August 2017. Accessed 09 Dec 2022. <>

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