The Tired Worker

O whisper, O my soul! The afternoon
Is waning into evening, whisper soft!
Peace, O my rebel heart! for soon the moon
From out its misty veil will swing aloft!
Be patient, weary body, soon the night
Will wrap thee gently in her sable sheet,
And with a leaden sigh thou wilt invite
To rest thy tired hands and aching feet.
The wretched day was theirs, the night is mine;
Come tender sleep, and fold me to thy breast.
But what steals out the gray clouds red like wine?
O dawn! O dreaded dawn! O let me rest
Weary my veins, my brain, my life! Have pity!
No! Once again the harsh, the ugly city.

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Futility

Oh, I have tried to laugh the pain away,
Let new flames brush my love-springs like a feather.
But the old fever seizes me to-day,
As sickness grips a soul in wretched weather.
I have given up myself to every urge,
With not a care of precious powers spent,
Have bared my body to the strangest scourge,
To soothe and deaden my heart’s unhealing rent.
But you have torn a nerve out of my frame,
A gut that no physician can replace,
And reft my life of happiness and aim.
Oh what new purpose shall I now embrace?
What substance hold, what lovely form pursue,
When my thought burns through everything to you?

Tormented

I will not reason, wrestle here with you,
Though you pursue and worry me about;
As well put forth my swarthy arm to stop
The wild wind howling, darkly mad without.

The night is yours for revels; day will light.
I will not fight you, bold and tigerish,
For I am weak, while you are gaining strength;
Peace! cease tormenting me to have your wish.

But when you’re filled and sated with the flesh,
I shall go swiftly to the silver stream,
To cleanse my body for the spirit’s sake,
And sun my limbs, and close my eyes to dream.

Baptism

Into the furnace let me go alone;
Stay you without in terror of the heat.
I will go naked in–for thus ’tis sweet—
Into the weird depths of the hottest zone.
I will not quiver in the frailest bone,
You will not note a flicker of defeat;
My heart shall tremble not its fate to meet,
My mouth give utterance to any moan.
The yawning oven spits forth fiery spears;
Red aspish tongues shout wordlessly my name.
Desire destroys, consumes my mortal fears,
Transforming me into a shape of flame.
I will come out, back to your world of tears,
A stronger soul within a finer frame.

December, 1919

Last night I heard your voice, mother,
The words you sang to me
When I, a little barefoot boy,
Knelt down against your knee.

And tears gushed from my heart, mother,
And passed beyond its wall,
But though the fountain reached my throat
The drops refused to fall.

‘Tis ten years since you died, mother,
Just ten dark years of pain,
And oh, I only wish that I
Could weep just once again.

The Lynching

His Spirit in smoke ascended to high heaven.
His father, by the cruelest way of pain,
Had bidden him to his bosom once again;
The awful sin remained still unforgiven.
All night a bright and solitary star
(Perchance the one that ever guided him,
Yet gave him up at last to Fate’s wild whim)
Hung pitifully o’er the swinging char.
Day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came
to view
The ghastly body swaying in the sun
The women thronged to look, but never a one
Showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue;
And little lads, lynchers that were to be,
Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.

Courage

O lonely heart so timid of approach,
the shy tropic flower that shuts its lips
To the faint touch of tender finger tips:
What is your word?   What question would you
broach?

Your lustrous-warm eyes are too sadly kind
To mask the meaning of your dreamy tale,
Your guarded life too exquisitely frail
Against the daggers of my warring mind.

There is no part of the unyielding earth,
Even bare rocks where the eagles build their
nest,
Will give us undisturbed and friendly rest.
No dewfall softens this vast belt of dearth.

But in the socket-chiseled teeth of strife,
That gleam in serried files in all the lands,
We may join hungry, understanding hands,
And drink our share of ardent love and life.

A Prayer

‘Mid the discordant noises of the day I hear thee
calling;
I stumble as I fare along Earth’s way; keep me
from falling.

Mine eyes are open but they cannot see for gloom
of night;
I can no more than lift my heart to thee for in-
ward light.

The wild and fiery passion of my youth consumes
my soul;
In agony I turn to thee for truth and self-control.

For Passion and all the pleasures it can give will
die the death;
But this of me eternally must live, thy borrowed
breath.

‘Mid the discordant noises of the day I hear thee
calling;
I stumble as I fare along Earth’s way; keep me
from falling.

In Bondage

I would be wandering in distant fields
Where man, and bird, and beast, lives leisurely,
And the old earth is kind, and ever yields
Her goodly gifts to all her children free;
Where life is fairer, lighter, less demanding,
And boys and girls have time and space for play
Before they come to years of understanding –
Somewhere I would be singing, far away.
For life is greater than the thousand wars
Men wage for it in their insatiate lust,
And will remain like the eternal stars,
When all that shines to-day is drift and dust
But I am bound with you in your mean graves,
O black men, simple slaves of ruthless slaves.

Enslaved

Oh when I think of my long-suffering race,
For weary centuries despised, oppressed,
Enslaved and lynched, denied a human place
In the great life line of the Christian West;
And in the Black Land disinherited,
Robbed in the ancient country of its birth,
My heart grows sick with hate, becomes as lead,
For this my race that has no home on earth.
Then from the dark depths of my soul I cry
To the avenging angel to consume
The white man’s world of wonders utterly:
Let it be swallowed up in earth’s vast womb,
Or upward roll as sacrificial smoke
To liberate my people from its yoke!