'Aunt Jemima of the Ocean Waves' portrays Hayden's own mythological figure of resilience. . . . Hayden uses the figure of Jemima as an archetypal symbol of the displaced Afro-American identity. The woman's lengthy narrative recounts her adventures from her days as the 'Sepia High Stepper' in Europe, to her present status in a sideshow as a 'fake mammy to God's mistakes'. As he listens to her intriguing narrative of 'High-stepping days', the persona finds in her a beautiful image of survival and strength, in spite of her ‘unfinished' or fake identity born from the original displacement of the culture. . . .
from From The Auroral Darkness: The Life and Poetry of Robert Hayden. Copyright © 1984 by John Hatcher.