I can laugh now.
Have you not heard my laughter?
It leads the winds:
They come tumbling and bubbling after.

I have learned to laugh.
I have learned to laugh with my spirit
And with my soul.
Listen. Do you not hear it?

I shall quench the world.
I shall sear the stars with my laughter;
Shrivel the moon and the sun
And make new ones after.

For life’s skeleton
I shall make flesh from desires;
Then of my mounting laughter
Build it a temple with mocking spires.

I shall laugh to heaven.
I shall laugh below hell and above.
I shall laugh forever.
It was laughter God died of.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain. 


I witnessed nothing
to speak of because
we were Free.

My life at four was the same
as at three. Then whispers wound
into my ears, or,

Father never whispered–
he gave me fire to breathe–
all the oxygen lit the room,

burning me up until my breath
writhed in the body’s drum.
Nothing changed but my mind.



I have a sense of him having said–
to Mother? a Soldier?–
something, but recall

none of the words,
only a sentence ending,
susurrous, in a hiss.

I froze. Put together
the words were menacing, sneak-
attacks, after which fear

riddled me day and night
like bullets. I have never not lived
with the fact of having heard,



the tear in me trauma
rent when I secreted
zero at the bone.

Father was high up–I never got
his echelon straight before the war
was over–but he was someone

who knew things
done to whom by whom
and when I snuck to the door

to listen the sound words
made was lightning flashed
right into my skull.

Originally published in Shenandoah. Copyright © 2019 by Cynthia Hogue. Used with the permission of the poet.

We have been friends together,  
  In sunshine and in shade;  
Since first beneath the chestnut-trees  
  In infancy we played.  
But coldness dwells within thy heart,
  A cloud is on thy brow;  
We have been friends together—  
  Shall a light word part us now?  
We have been gay together;  
  We have laugh'd at little jests;
For the fount of hope was gushing  
  Warm and joyous in our breasts.  
But laughter now hath fled thy lip,  
  And sullen glooms thy brow;  
We have been gay together—
  Shall a light word part us now?  
We have been sad together,  
  We have wept, with bitter tears,  
O'er the grass-grown graves, where slumber'd  
  The hopes of early years.
The voices which are silent there  
  Would bid thee clear thy brow;  
We have been sad together—  
  Oh! what shall part us now?

This poem is in the public domain.

Ah, I know what happiness is. . . .
It is a timid little fawn
Creeping softly up to me
For one caress, then gone
Before I’m through with it . . .
Away, like dark from dawn!
Well I know what happiness is . . . !
It is the break of day that wears
A shining dew decked diadem . . .
An aftermath of tears.
Fawn and dawn, emblems of joy . . .
I’ve played with them for years,
And always they will slip away
Into the brush of another day.

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

You are not she I loved. You cannot be
           My wild, white dove, 
My tempest-driven dove that I gave house, 
           You cannot be my Love. 

She died. I used to hold her all night long; 
           Come awake
At dawn beside her. Try to ease with loving 
            A thirst too deep to slake. 

O, it was pain to keep her shut against me. 
           Honey and bitterness
To taste her with sharp kisses and hold her after
            In brief duress. 

You cold woman, you stranger with her ways, 
         Smiling cruelly, 
You tear my heart as never her wild wings’
                            Wounded me. 

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain.