“I Have a Rendevous With Life” by Countee Cullen (1903 – 1946)


I have a rendezvous with Life,
In days I hope will come,
Ere youth has sped, and strength of mind,
Ere voices sweet grow dumb.
I have a rendezvous with Life,
When Spring’s first heralds hum.
Sure some would cry it’s better far
To crown their days with sleep
Than face the road, the wind and rain,
To heed the calling deep.
Though wet nor blow nor space I fear,
Yet fear I deeply, too,
Lest Death should meet and claim me ere
I keep Life’s rendezvous.

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou


 

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

“The Bean Eaters” by Gwendolyn Brooks



Listen to “The Bean Eaters” below:


The Bean Eaters” by GWENDOLYN BROOKS

Read by Teyuna T. Darris

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.

Dinner is a casual affair.

Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,

Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.

Two who have lived their day,

But keep on putting on their clothes

And putting things away.

And remembering …

Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,

As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

Gwendolyn Brooks, “The Bean Eaters” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1963 by Gwendolyn Brooks.

“The Gift to Sing” by James Weldon Johnson (1871 – 1938)


Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
And I can sing.

“Ships That Pass In The Night” by Paul Laurence Dunbar


Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;

I look far out into the pregnant night,

Where I can hear a solemn booming gun

And catch the gleaming of a random light,

That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.

My tearful eyes my soul’s deep hurt are glassing;

For I would hail and check that ship of ships.

I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud,

My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips,

And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing.

O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing,

O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark!

Is there no hope for me? Is there no way

That I may sight and check that speeding bark

Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?

“A Grain of Sand” by Frances E. W. Harper


Do you see this grain of sand
Lying loosely in my hand?
Do you know to me it brought
Just a simple loving thought?
When one gazes night by night
On the glorious stars of light,
Oh how little seems the span
Measured round the life of man.

Oh! how fleeting are his years
With their smiles and their tears;
Can it be that God does care
For such atoms as we are?
Then outspake this grain of sand
‘I was fashioned by His hand
In the star lit realms of space
I was made to have a place.

‘Should the ocean flood the world,
Were its mountains ‘gainst me hurled
All the force they could employ
Wouldn’t a single grain destroy;
And if I, a thing so light,
Have a place within His sight;
You are linked unto his throne
Cannot live nor die alone.

In the everlasting arms
Mid life’s dangers and alarms
Let calm trust your spirit fill;
Know He’s God, and then be still.’
Trustingly I raised my head
Hearing what the atom said;
Knowing man is greater far
Than the brightest sun or star.

“Church Building” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper


Uncle Jacob often told us,
Since freedom blessed our race
We ought all to come together
And build a meeting place.

So we pinched, and scraped, and spared,
A little here and there:
Though our wages was but scanty,
The church did get a share.

And, when the house was finished,
Uncle Jacob came to pray;
He was looking mighty feeble,
And his head was awful gray.

But his voice rang like a trumpet;
His eyes looked bright and young;
And it seemed a mighty power
Was resting on his tongue.

And he gave us all his blessing –
‘Twas parting words he said,
For soon we got the message
The dear old man was dead.

But I believe he’s in the kingdom,
For when we shook his hand
He said, ‘Children, you must meet me
Right in the promised land;

‘For when I done a moiling
And toiling here below,
Through the gate into the city
Straightway I hope to go.’