The zones of warmth around his heart,
No alien airs had crossed;
But he awoke one morn to feel
The magic numbness of autumnal frost.
His thoughts were a loose skein of threads,
And tangled emotions, vague and dim;
And sacrificing what he loved
He lost the dearest part of him.
In sculptured worship now he lives,
His one desire a prisoned ache;
If he can never melt again
His very heart will break.
Laughing It Out
He had a whim and laughed it out
Upon the exit of a chance;
He floundered in a sea of doubt—
If life was real—or just romance.
Sometimes upon his brow would come
A little pucker of defiance;
He totalled in a word the sum
Of all man made of facts and science.
And then a hearty laugh would break,
A reassuring shrug of shoulder;
And we would from his fancy take
A faith in death which made life bolder.
No, his exit by the gate
Will not leave the wind ajar;
He will go when it is late
With a misty star.
One will call, he cannot see;
One will call, he will not hear;
He will take no company
Nor a hope or fear.
We shall smile who loved him so—
They who gave him hate will weep;
But for us the winds will blow
Pulsing through his sleep.
He could not tell the way he came,
Because his chart was lost:
Yet all his way was paved with flame
From the bourne he crossed.
He did not know the way to go,
Because he had no map:
He followed where the winds blow,—
And the April sap.
He never knew upon his brow
The secret that he bore,—
And laughs away the mystery now
The dark’s at his door.
No more from out the sunset,
No more across the foam,
No more across the windy hills
Will Sandy Star come home.
He went away to search it
With a curse upon his tongue:
And in his hand the staff of life,
Made music as it swung.
I wonder if he found it,
And knows the mystery now—
Our Sandy Star who went away,
With the secret on his brow.
From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.