Douce Souvenance

- 1882-1961

Again, as always, when the shadows fall,
    In that sweet space between the dark and day, 
I leave the present and its fretful claims
    And seek the dim past where my memories stay. 
I dream an old, forgotten, far-off dream, 
     And think old thoughts and live old scenes anew, 
Till suddenly I reach the heart of Spring—
    The spring that brought me you!
I see again a little woody lane, 
    The moonlight rifting golden through the trees;
I hear the plaintive chirp of drowsy bird
    Lulled dreamward by a tender, vagrant breeze;
I hold your hand, I look into your eyes,
    I touch your lips,—oh, peerless, matchless dower!
Oh, Memory thwarting Time and Space and Death!
    Oh, Little Perfect Hour!

More by Jessie Redmon Fauset

Rondeau

When April's here and meadows wide 
Once more with spring's sweet growths are pied 
    I close each book, drop each pursuit, 
    And past the brook, no longer mute, 
I joyous roam the countryside.

Look, here the violets shy abide 
And there the mating robins hide—
    How keen my sense, how acute, 
      When April's here!

And list! down where the shimmering tide 
Hard by that farthest hill doth glide, 
    Rise faint strains from shepherd's flute, 
    Pan's pipes and Berecyntian lute. 
Each sight, each sound fresh joys provide 
      When April's here. 

La Vie C'est La Vie

On summer afternoons I sit
Quiescent by you in the park
And idly watch the sunbeams gild
And tint the ash-trees' bark.

Or else I watch the squirrels frisk
And chaffer in the grassy lane;
And all the while I mark your voice
Breaking with love and pain.

I know a woman who would give
Her chance of heaven to take my place;
To see the love-light in your eyes,
The love-glow on your face!

And there's a man whose lightest word
Can set my chilly blood afire;
Fulfillment of his least behest
Defines my life’s desire.

But he will none of me, nor I
Of you. Nor you of her. ’Tis said
The world is full of jests like these.—
I wish that I were dead.

Oriflamme

“I can remember when I was a little, young girl, how my old mammy would sit out of doors in the evenings and look up at the stars and groan, and I would say, ‘Mammy, what makes you groan so?’ And she would say, ‘I am groaning to think of my poor children; they do not know where I be and I don’t know where they be. I look up at the stars and they look up at the stars!’”
            —Sojourner Truth.

I think I see her sitting bowed and black,
  Stricken and seared with slavery’s mortal scars,
Reft of her children, lonely, anguished, yet
  Still looking at the stars.

Symbolic mother, we thy myriad sons,
  Pounding our stubborn hearts on Freedom’s bars,
Clutching our birthright, fight with faces set,
  Still visioning the stars!

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Translation

We trekked into a far country,
My friend and I.
Our deeper content was never spoken,
But each knew all the other said.
He told me how calm his soul was laid
By the lack of anvil and strife.
"The wooing kestrel," I said, "mutes his mating-note
To please the harmony of this sweet silence."
And when at the day's end
We laid tired bodies 'gainst
The loose warm sands,
And the air fleeced its particles for a coverlet;
When star after star came out
To guard their lovers in oblivion—
My soul so leapt that my evening prayer
Stole my morning song!

Her Lips Are Copper Wire

whisper of yellow globes
gleaming on lamp-posts that sway
like bootleg licker drinkers in the fog

and let your breath be moist against me
like bright beads on yellow globes

telephone the power-house
that the main wires are insulate

(her words play softly up and down
dewy corridors of billboards)

then with your tongue remove the tape
and press your lips to mine
till they are incandescent

Dreams

Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.