He never spoke a word to me,
    And yet He called my name;
He never gave a sign to me,
    And yet I knew and came.

At first I said, "I will not bear
    His cross upon my back;
He only seeks to place it there
    Because my skin is black."

But He was dying for a dream,
    And He was very meek,
And in His eyes there shone a gleam
    Men journey far to seek.

It was Himself my pity bought;
    I did for Christ alone
What all of Rome could not have wrought
    With bruise of lash or stone.

This poem is in the public domain.

I think I see Him there
With a stern dream on his face

I see Him there

Wishing they would hurry
The last nail in place.

And I wonder, had I been there,
Would I have doubted too

Or would the dream have told me,
What this man speaks is true.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

His friends went off and left Him dead
In Joseph’s subterranean bed,
Embalmed with myrrh and sweet aloes,
And wrapped in snow-white burial clothes.

Then shrewd men came and set a seal
Upon His grave, lest thieves should steal
His lifeless form away, and claim
For Him and undeserving fame.

“There is no use,” the soldiers said,
“Of standing sentries by the dead.”
Wherefore, they drew their cloaks around
Themselves, and fell upon the ground,
And slept like dead men, all night through,
In the pale moonlight and chilling dew.

A muffed whiff of sudden breath
Ruffled the passive air of death.

He woke, and raised Himself in bed;
    Recalled how He was crucified;
Touched both hands’ fingers to His head,
    And lightly felt His fresh-healed side.

Then with a deep, triumphant sigh,
He coolly put His grave-clothes by—
Folded the sweet, white winding sheet,
    The toweling, the linen bands,
    The napkin, all with careful hands—
And left the borrowed chamber neat.

His steps were like the breaking day:
    So soft across the watch He stole,
    He did not wake a single soul,
Nor spill one dewdrop by the way.

Now Calvary was loveliness:
    Lilies that flowered thereupon
Pulled off the white moon’s pallid dress,
    And put the morning’s vesture on.

“Why seek the living among the dead?
He is not here,” the angel said.

The early winds took up the words,
And bore them to the lilting birds,
The leafing trees, and everything
That breathed the living breath of spring.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

Lent gathers up her cloak of sombre shading
    In her reluctant hands.
Her beauty heightens, fairest in its fading,
    As pensively she stands 
Awaiting Easter’s benediction falling,
    Like silver stars at night, 
Before she can obey the summons calling
    Her to her upward flight, 
Awaiting Easter’s wings that she must borrow
    Ere she can hope to fly—
Those glorious wings that we shall see to-morrow
    Against the far, blue sky.
Has not the purple of her vesture’s lining
    Brought calm and rest to all? 
Has her dark robe had naught of golden shining
    Been naught but pleasure’s pall?
Who knows? Perhaps when to the world returning
    In youth’s light joyousness,
We’ll wear some rarer jewels we found burning
    In Lent’s black-bordered dress.
So hand in hand with fitful March she lingers
    To beg the crowning grace 
Of lifting with her pure and holy fingers
    The veil from April’s face. 
Sweet, rosy April—laughing, sighing, waiting
    Until the gateway swings,
And she and Lent can kiss between the grating
    Of Easter’s tissue wings.
Too brief the bliss—the parting comes with sorrow. 
    Good-bye dear Lent, good-bye! 
We’ll watch your fading wings outlined to-morrow
     Against the far blue sky. 

From Flint and Feather: The Complete Poems of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (The Musson Book Co., Limited, 1917) by Emily Pauline Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

Keep me ’neath Thy mighty wing,
Keep me, Jesus, keep me;
Help me praise Thy Holy name,
Keep me, Jesus, keep me.
O my Lamb, come, my Lamb,
O my good Lamb,
Save me, Jesus, save me.

Hear me as I cry to Thee;
Keep me, Jesus, keep me;
May I that bright glory see;
Keep me, Jesus, keep me.
O my Lamb, my good Lamb,
O my good Lamb,
Keep me, Jesus, keep me.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

They howled ’til Pilate
Sent dear Jesus out.
Then they cursed Him
An’ knocked Him all about.

O brothers, O sisters,
Think what those sinners done—
Crucified the Lord’s Son!
Think, think . . . Oh, think . . .

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

(A Prayer from God's Trombones)

O Lord, we come this morning
Knee-bowed and body-bent
Before Thy throne of grace.
O Lord—this morning—
Bow our hearts beneath our knees,
And our knees in some lonesome valley.
We come this morning—
Like empty pitchers to a full fountain,
With no merits of our own.
O Lord—open up a window of heaven,
And lean out far over the battlements of glory,
And listen this morning.

Lord, have mercy on proud and dying sinners—
Sinners hanging over the mouth of hell,
Who seem to love their distance well.
Lord—ride by this morning—
Mount Your milk-white horse,
And ride-a this morning—
And in Your ride, ride by old hell,
Ride by the dingy gates of hell,
And stop poor sinners in their headlong plunge.

And now, O Lord, this man of God,
Who breaks the bread of life this morning—
Shadow him in the hollow of Thy hand,
And keep him out of the gunshot of the devil.
Take him, Lord—this morning—
Wash him with hyssop inside and out,
Hang him up and drain him dry of sin.
Pin his ear to the wisdom-post,
And make his words sledge hammers of truth—
Beating on the iron heart of sin.
Lord God, this morning—
Put his eye to the telescope of eternity,
And let him look upon the paper walls of time.
Lord, turpentine his imagination,
Put perpetual motion in his arms,
Fill him full of the dynamite of Thy power,
Anoint him all over with the oil of Thy salvation,
And set his tongue on fire.

And now, O Lord—
When I've done drunk my last cup of sorrow—
When I've been called everything but a child of God—
When I'm done traveling up the rough side of the mountain—
O—Mary's Baby—
When I start down the steep and slippery steps of death—
When this old world begins to rock beneath my feet—
Lower me to my dusty grave in peace
To wait for that great gittin'-up morning—Amen.

From God's Trombones by James Weldon Johnson. Copyright © 1927 The Viking Press, Inc., renewed 1955 by Grace Nail Johnson. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.

The girls sang better than the boys, 
their voices reaching All the way to God, 
Sister Ann Zita insisted during those 
     practice sessions
when I was told to mouth do, re, mi,
     but to go no higher,
when I was told to stand in back 
    and form a perfect 0
        with my lips
although no word was ever to come out, 
the silent singer in that third-grade 
during the Christmas Pageant and Easter 
     Week, the birth and death 
        of Christ lip-synched
            but unsung	
while my relatives, friends and parents
     praised my baritone,
     how low my voice was,
Balancing those higher, more childlike tones,
     my father said,
Adding depth, my mother said,
Thank God they had my huskiness to bring all
     that tinniness to earth,
     my great-aunt whispered,
so I believed for many years in miracles
the words I'd never sung reaching their ears 
     in the perfect pitch, the perfect tone, 
while the others stuttered in their all-too-human
     voices to praise the Lord.

From The Silent Singer by Len Roberts. Copyright © 2000 by Len Roberts. Used with permission of the author and the University of Illinois Press. All rights reserved.

               Eaton, NH, 1879

Us Free Will Baptists walked a thin tightwire,
a springing path out over the abyss.
We knew how a sudden April desire to dance
can topple you head over heels into the fire.

We knew how warmth exuded by a youth
singing at prayer meeting in a nearby seat
and inhaled deeply can inebriate
you to the point of renouncing the truth.

We lived repent-now-before-it's-too-late.
We didn't believe God forgives you, once and for all.
We knew how you can just turn around and fall,
of your own free will, how easy it is to doubt.

But there's no Free Willers left around this place
since the Phelps boy come back from Harvard talking about Grace.

Copyright © 2013 by Marilyn Nelson. Used with permission of the author.

2. 2047 Grace Street

But the world is more often refuge
than evidence, comfort and covert
for the flinching will, rather than the sharp
particulate instants through which God's being burns
into ours. I say God and mean more 
than the bright abyss that opens in that word.
I say world and mean less
than the abstract oblivion of atoms
out of which every intact thing emerges,
into which every intact thing finally goes.
I do not know how to come closer to God
except by standing where a world is ending
for one man. It is still dark,
and for an hour I have listened
to the breathing of the woman I love beyond
my ability to love. Praise to the pain
scalding us toward each other, the grief
beyond which, please God, she will live
and thrive. And praise to the light that is not
yet, the dawn in which one bird believes,
crying not as if there had been no night
but as if there were no night in which it had not been.

Excerpted from Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman. Published in November 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2010 by Christian Wiman. All rights reserved.

Salvation comes by Christ alone,
   The only Son of God;
Redemption now to every one,
   That love his holy Word.

Dear Jesus, we would fly to Thee,
   And leave off every Sin,
Thy tender Mercy well agree;
   Salvation from our King. 

Salvation comes now from the Lord,
   Our victorious King.
His holy Name be well ador'd,
   Salvation surely bring.

Dear Jesus, give thy Spirit now, 
   Thy Grace to every Nation,
That han't the Lord to whom we bow,
   The Author of Salvation.

Dear Jesus, unto Thee we cry,
   Give us the Preparation;
Turn not away thy tender Eye;
   We seek thy true Salvation.

Salvation comes from God we know,
   The true and only One;
It's well agreed and certain true,
   He gave his only Son.

Lord, hear our penetential Cry:
   Salvation from above;
It is the Lord that doth supply,
   With his Redeeming Love.

Dear Jesus, by thy precious Blood,
   The World Redemption have:
Salvation now comes from the Lord,
   He being thy captive slave.

Dear Jesus, let the Nations cry,
   And all the People say,
Salvation comes from Christ on high,
   Haste on Tribunal Day.

We cry as Sinners to the Lord,
   Salvation to obtain; 
It is firmly fixed, his holy Word,
   Ye shall not cry in vain.

Dear Jesus, unto Thee we cry,
   And make our Lamentation:
O let our Prayers ascend on high;
   We felt thy Salvation.

Lord, turn our dark benighted Souls;
   Give us a true Motion,
And let the Hearts of all the World,
   Make Christ their Salvation.

Ten Thousand Angels cry to Thee,
   Yea, louder than the Ocean.
Thou art the Lord, we plainly see;
   Thou art the true Salvation.

Now is the Day, excepted Time;
   The Day of the Salvation;
Increase your Faith, do not repine:
   Awake ye, every Nation.

Lord, unto whom now shall we go,
   Or seek a safe abode?
Thou has the Word Salvation Too,
   The only Son of God.

Ho! every one that hunger hath,
   Or pineth after me,
Salvation be thy leading Staff,
   To set the Sinner free.

Dear Jesus, unto Thee we fly;
   Depart, depart from Sin,
Salvation doth at length supply,
   The Glory of our King.

Come, ye Blessed of the Lord,
   Salvation greatly given;
O turn your Hearts, accept the Word,
   Your Souls are fit for Heaven. 

Dear Jesus, we now turn to Thee,
   Salvation to obtain;
Our Hearts and Souls do meet again,
   To magnify thy Name.

Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove,
   The Object of our Care;
Salvation doth increase our Love;
   Our Hearts hath felt they fear. 

Now Glory be to God on High, 
   Salvation high and low;
And thus the Soul on Christ rely,
   To Heaven surely go.

Come, Blessed Jesus, Heavenly Dove,
   Accept Repentance here;
Salvation give, with tender Love;
   Let us with Angels share.  Finis.

This poem is in the public domain.