African American Poetry (1870-1927): A Digital Anthology

Anne Spencer, "Sybil Warns Her Sister" (1927)

 SYBIL WARNS HER SISTER

It is dangerous for a woman to defy the gods;
To taunt them with the tongue's thin tip,
Or strut in the weakness of mere humanity,
Or draw a line daring them to cross;
The gods who own the searing lightning,
The drowning waters, the tormenting fears,
The anger of red sins...
Oh, but worse still if you mince along timidly-
Dodge this way or that, or kneel, or pray,
Or be kind, or sweat agony drops,
Or lay your quick body over your feeble young,
If you have beauty or plainness, if celibate,
Or vowed-the gods are Juggernaut,
Passing over each of us....
   Or this you may do:
Lock your heart, then, quietly,
And, lest they peer within,
Light no lamp when dark comes down
Raise no shade for sun,
Breathless must your breath come thru,
If you'd die and dare deny
The gods their god-like fun!

Published in Ebony and Topaz, 1927