“Tuskegee” by Leslie Pinckney Hill (1880 – 1960)


Wherefore this busy labor without rest?
Is it an idle dream to which we cling,
Here where a thousand dusky toilers sing
Unto the world their hope? “Build we our best.
By hand and thought,” they cry, “although unblessed.”
So the great engines throb, and anvils ring,
And so the thought is wedded to the thing;
But what shall be the end, and what the test?
Dear God, we dare not answer, we can see
Not many steps ahead, but this we know—
If all our toilsome building is in vain,
Availing not to set our manhood free,
If envious hate roots out the seed we sow,
The South will wear eternally a stain.

“Fire and Sleet and Candlelight” by Elinor Morton Wylie (1885 – 1928)


"Fire and Sleet and Candlelight"
by ELINOR MORTON WYLIE

For this you’ve striven
    Daring, to fail:
Your sky is riven
    Like a tearing veil.

For this, you’ve wasted
    Wings of your youth;
Divined, and tasted
    Bitter springs of truth.

From sand unslakèd
    Twisted strong cords,
And wandered naked
    Among trysted swords.

There’s a word unspoken,
    A knot untied.
Whatever is broken
    The earth may hide.

The road was jagged
    Over sharp stones:
Your body’s too ragged
    To cover your bones.

The wind scatters
    Tears upon dust;
Your soul’s in tatters
    Where the spears thrust.

Your race is ended—
    See, it is run:
Nothing is mended
    Under the sun.

Straight as an arrow
    You fall to a sleep
Not too narrow
    And not too deep.

“The Harlem Dancer” by Claude McKay (1889 – 1948)



Listen to the “Harlem Dancer” here:


“The Harlem Dancer

by Claude McKay

Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes

And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway;

Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes

Blown by black players upon a picnic day.

She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,

The light gauze hanging loose about her form;

To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm

Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.

Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls

Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,

The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,

Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;

But looking at her falsely-smiling face,

I knew her self was not in that strange place.

A Eros (To Eros) by ALFONSIA STORNI (1892 – 1938)


A Eros (To Eros)

BY ALFONSIA STORNI

HE AQUI que te cacé por el pescuezo
a la orilla del mar, mientras movías
las flechas de tu aljaba para herirme
y vi en el suelo tu floreal corona.

Como a un muñeco destripé tu vientre
y examiné sus ruedas engañosas
y muy envuelta en sus poleas de oro
hallé una trampa que decía: sexo.

Sobre la playa, ya un guiñapo triste,
te mostré al sol, buscón de tus hazañas,
ante un corro asustado de sirenas.

Iba subiendo por la cuesta albina
tu madrina de engaños, Doña Luna,
y te arrojé a la boca de las olas.


Translation

I caught you by the neck
on the shore of the sea, while you shot
arrows from your quiver to wound me
and on the ground I saw your flowered crown.

I disemboweled your stomach like a doll’s
and examined your deceitful wheels,
and deeply hidden in your golden pulleys
I found a trapdoor that said: sex.

On the beach I held you, now a sad heap,
up to the sun, accomplice of your deeds,
before a chorus of frightened sirens.
Your deceitful godmother, the moon
was climbing through the crest of the dawn,
and I threw you into the mouth of the waves.

“Evening” by Paul Laurence Dunbar


Evening

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The moon begins her stately ride
Across the summer sky;
The happy wavelets lash the shore,—
The tide is rising high.

Beneath some friendly blade of grass
The lazy beetle cowers;
The coffers of the air are filled
With offerings from the flowers.

And slowly buzzing o’er my head
A swallow wings her flight;
I hear the weary plowman sing
As falls the restful night.

Poem: “When I Heard the Learned Astronomer” by Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)


When I heard the learn’d astronomer, 
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, 
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, 
   and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
   much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, 
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

“I had no time to hate, because” by Emily Dickinson


 

I HAD no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.

Nor had I time to love; but since
Some industry must be,
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me.