Calvin Hernton Seeks to Build and Preserve a House

To Mildred


Where shall the monument begin
Upon what foundation 
How shall the True House be erected? 

Now you are going away 
I will miss you, I will be lonely, 
I will worry and know sleepless nights
So terrible 
I shall walk dark streets 
Sit in darker places 
And drink     and brood. 

After having pressed my mouth to yours
Lived each breath of your breathing 
After having been told that I am loved 
After having loved, 
In so short a space within confines so desolate, 
Now that you are leaving
I shall walk quietly into a church 
Kneel there before the alter
And pray. 


How shall love’s monument begin? 
Upon what foundation shall it be erected? 
Christ died but on the third day he rose. 

The True House is the Temple of God
It is built upon the foundation of the Rock. 
The True Temple is the family. 
Love is the rock. 

The first and last, the indivisible, the
Ever prevailing, undisputable 


Once erected
How shall the Temple be preserved? 
I have seen men curse God      in God’s name. 
I see a world filled with haters. 
I see people dancing a dance who have forgotten the meaning, or twisted it 
Beyond its Truth. 
I hear confused, hopeless tongues uttering hopeful words. 

How shall the Truth be preserved? 
Now that you are leaving
I shall be alone. 


Tell them the Temple is based upon
A solid foundation
Tell them the True House of God is created out of love and marriage! 
Conceived by Children
Through the placing-on lips in nights soft as the fur of freshly born kittens
Tell them the True Temple is not an organization for the purpose of self-aggrandizement
Or national expediancy—
The family is a religious institution. 

And when you depart from me, my love, 
                 take this monument with Thee 
                 forget not the altar, where the candle of 
Resurrection flickers about the profile of my 
                 tearful face. 


And remember! 
Once erected, even then the True House
Is not so easily preserved. For 
There are those, envious, begrudging, 
Of the house, 
                unbelievers, who stand without, that 
Will strive, will strike out boldly
                  or cowardly
Against the True Temple.
Those who for various and often unscrutinized motives, 
Those who, while standing upon the Rock, will oppose 
                and offend, 
Those who will strive to arrest and destroy

The one Truth
The only House. 


Shall I grieve? 
You know grief will be mine. 
You know I love you committedly and will 
                 suffer during your absence 
The True House is the True Temple
I love you 
              and want to marry. 

The True Temple
The Rock 
The Cathedral 
Must be built from within 
It will prevail against those who oppose
               from without 
               against those who offend. 
It must be built on Love. 

This is the way it must be erected
This is the way it begins
This is the way the family will survive 

This is the monument. 


“Calvin Hernton Seeks to Build and Preserve a House" from Selected Poems of Calvin C. Hernton © 2023 by Antone Hernton. Published by Wesleyan University Press. Used by permission.