Whitey on the Moon

May 1, 2007

A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon.

Her face and arms began to swell and Whitey’s on the moon.

I can’t pay no doctor bills but Whitey’s on the moon.

Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still while Whitey’s on the moon.

 

The man just upped my rent last night cuz Whitey’s on the moon.

No hot water, no toilets, no lights but Whitey’s on the moon.

I wonder why he’s uppin me. Cuz Whitey’s on the moon?

I was already givin’ him fifty a week but now Whitey’s on the moon.

 

Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,

The junkies makin’ me a nervous wreck,

The price of food is goin’ up,

And as if all that shit wasn’t enough:

 

A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon.

Her face and arms began to swell but Whitey’s on the moon.

Was all that money I made last year for Whitey on the moon?

How come there ain’t no money here? Hmm! Whitey’s on the moon.

 

Ya know, I just about had my fill of Whitey on the moon.

I think I’ll send these doctor bills

airmail special….

to Whitey on the moon.

 

– Gil Scott Heron

 

 

Heron does a wonderful job here. I think ‘Whitey on the Moon’ refers to both the American obsession with space exploration (which is contrasted with very personal, Early troubles) and the clueless state of white-Americans living in the suburbs. This racial double entente is what gives the work an acerbic edge.

 

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One Response to “Whitey on the Moon”

  1. glandheim Says:

    I agree. Wonderful job. I’m a fan of the space program, and I disagree with the premise, but that doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t the moon it would be (insert whatever government program you think is a total waste of money).

    But the double-entendre also works, as the previous poster noted. Being “on the moon” is such an old equivalent to “having everything” that I missed it when I read it.

    Regardless, the imagery and contrast of wasted money versus unmet need, particularly when it’s largely a matter of will and money to solve these kinds of social problems is very powerful.

    And it rhymes. I like poems that rhyme:)


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