Sometimes it seems as though some puppet-player,
A clenched claw cupping a craggy chin
Sits just beyond the border of our seeing,
Twitching the strings with slow, sardonic grin.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Like crawling black monsters
the big clouds tap at my window,
their shooting liquid fingers slide
over the staring panes
and merge on the red wall.
Some of the fingers pull at the hinges
and whisper insistently: “Let us come in,
the cruel wind whips and drives us
till we are sore and in despair.”
But I cannot harbor the big crawling black clouds,
I cannot save them from the angry wind.
In a tiny crevice of my aching heart
there is a big storm brewing
and loud clamour and constant prayer
for the reflection of snow-capped mountains
on a distant lake.
Tires and dazed I sit on a bear skin
and timidly listen to the concert of storms.
This poem is in the public domain, and originally appeared in Others for 1919; An Anthology of the New Verse (Nicholas L. Brown, 1920).
Once I was good like the Virgin Mary and the Minister’s
My father worked for Mr. Pullman and white people’s
tips; but he died two days after his insurance expired.
I had nothing, so I had to go to work.
All the stock I had was a white girl’s education and a
face that enchanted the men of both races.
Starvation danced with me.
So when Big Lizzie, who kept a house for white men,
came to me with tales of fortune that I could reap
from the sale of my virtue I bowed my head to Vice.
Now I can drink more gin than any man for miles around.
Gin is better than all the water in Lethe.
From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922) edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.