La Vie C'est La Vie

- 1882-1961
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.

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. 

Douce Souvenance

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!

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!

Related Poems

Blueacre

                     Lamentation (Martha Graham, 1930)

                     What shall I compare to you, that I may comfort                                 you, virgin daughter of Zion? Lamentations 2:13

 

Wordless, ceaseless,
a second, seamless skin,
this blue refrain

sings of comfort,
camouflage, the rarest
right—to remain

faceless, featureless,
the barest rune of ruin:
a chessboard pawn

that rears up into a castle
then topples in defeat,
an exposed vein

on a stretched-out throat
pulsing frantically
as if to drain

unwanted thoughts
into the body’s reservoir—
an inky stain

bluer than blushing,
truer than trusting,
the shadow zone

at the core of the flame—
too intense, too airless
to long remain

enveloped, as if
a moth lured to the light
were trapped, sewn

back in its cocoon,
the way the pitiless
mind goes on

shapemaking—
gamma, lambda, chi—
a linked chain

of association no less
binding for being silken,
a fine-meshed net thrown

over the exhausted
animal—having given up
its vague, vain

efforts to escape,
and now struggling
simply to sustain

a show of resistance,
to extend a limb toward
extremity, to glean

one glimpse of light,
one gasp of air, then folding
inward, diving down

into the blue pool
at the body’s hollow center,
there to float, and drown.