I have sown beside all waters in my day.
I planted deep within my heart the fear
That wind or fowl would take the grain away.
I planted safe against this stark, lean year.
I scattered seed enough to plant the land
In rows from Canada to Mexico.
But for my reaping only what the hand
Can hold at once is all that I can show.
Yet what I sowed and what the orchard yields
My brother’s sons are gathering stalk and root,
Small wonder then my children glean in fields
They have not sown, and feed on bitter fruit.
From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.