African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Alice Dunbar-Nelson, "I Sit and Sew" (1920)


I SIT and sew—a useless task it seems,
My hands grown tired, my head weighed down with dreams
The panoply of war, the martial tread of men,
Grim faced, stern eyed, gazing beyond the ken
Of lesser souls, whose eyes have not seen Death,
Nor learned to hold their lives but as a breath—
But—I must sit and sew.
I sit and sew—my heart aches with desire—
That pageant terrible, that fiercely pouring fire
On wasted fields, and writhing grotesque things
Once men. My soul in pity flings
Appealing cries, yearning only to go
There in that holocaust of hell, those fields of woe—
But—I must sit and sew
The little useless seam, the idle patch;
Why dream I here beneath my homely thatch,
When there they lie in sodden mud and rain,
Pitifully calling me, the quick ones and the slain?
You need me, Christ. It is no roseate dream
That beckons me—this pretty futile seam
It stifles me—God, must I sit and sew?

Published in A.M.E. Church Review
Also published in The Dunbar Speaker and Entertainer (1920)

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