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

Angelina Weld Grimke, "The Ways O' Men" (1927)

'Tis queer, it is, the ways o’men,
Their comin's and their goin's;
For there's the grey road,
   The straight road
With the grey dust liftin'
   With ev'ry step
And the little roads off-flingin'.

Maybe it's a bit of a sly field
That crooks a finger to them
And sends them to the turnin';
Or the round firm bosom
   Of a little hill
Acallin' to them, them with their heads
      That heavy;
Or maybe it's the black look
   Given out of the tail of the eye;
Or a white word, wingin’;
Maybe it's only the back of a little tot's neck
   In the sunlight;
Or the red lips of a woman
   Parting slow. ...
   Sure there's no tellin'.

One I saw goin' towards a white star
   At the edge of a daffydill sky,
   Its lights kissin' straight into his eyes.
Maybe it's a gold piece
To be taken from another
   In the dark;
Or the neat place between the ribs
Waitin' for the knife
That one comes after carryin' for it.
'Tis few, it is, that goes with the grey road
   The straight road
   All the way,
With the grey dust liftin' at ev'ry step.

'Tis queer, it is, the ways o' men,
With a level look at you, or a crooked
   As they be passin'.
Sure, 'tis so fast they're goin',
Does it matter about the turnin's?

Published in Caroling Dusk1927

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