The Death Bed
All the time they were praying
He watched the shadow of a tree
Flicker on the wall.
There is no need of prayer,
No need at all.
The kin-folk thought it strange
That he should ask them from a dying bed.
But they left all in a row
And it seemed to ease him
To see them go.
There were some who kept on praying
In a room across the hall
And some who listened to the breeze
That made the shadows waver
On the wall.
He tried his nerve
On a song he knew
And made an empty note
That might have come,
From a bird’s harsh throat.
And all the time it worried him
That they were in there praying
And all the time he wondered
What it was they could be saying.
From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.