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

Arna Bontemps, "The Return" (1927)

Once more, listening to the wind and rain, 
Once more, you and I, and above the hurting sound 
Of these comes back the throbbing of remembered rain, 
Treasured rain falling on dark ground. 
Once more, huddling birds upon the leaves 
And summer trembling on a withered vine. 
And once more, returning out of pain, 
The friendly ghost that was your love and mine. 
The throb of rain is the throb of muffled drums; 
Darkness brings the jungle to our room. 
Darkness hangs our room with pendulums 
Of vine and in the gathering gloom 
Our walls recede into a denseness of 
Surrounding trees. This is a night of love 
Retained from those lost nights our fathers slept 
In huts; this is a night that cannot die. 
Let us keep the dance of rain our fathers kept 
And tread our dreams beneath the jungle sky. 

The downpour ceases. 
Let us go back, you and I, and dance 
Once more upon the glimmering leaves 
And as the throbbing of drums increases 
Shake the grass and the drippimg boughs of trees. 
A ary wind stirs the palm; the old tree grieves. 
Lime has charged the years and they have returned. 
Then let us dance by metal waters burned 
With gold of moon, let us dance 
With naked feet beneath the young spice trees. 
What was that light, that radiance 
On your face?—something I saw when first 
You passed beneath the jungle tapestries? 
A moment we pause to quench our thirst 
Kneeling at the water’s edge, the gleam 
Upon your face is plain; you have wanted this, 
Oh let us go back and search the tangled dream 
And as the muffled-drum-beats throb and miss 
Remember again how. early darkness comes 
 To dreams and silence to the drums. 
Let us go back into the dusk again, 
Slow and sad-like following the track 
Of blown leaves and cool white rain 
Into the old grey dreams; let us go back. 
Our walls close about us, we lie and listen 
To the noise of the street, the storm and the driven birds. 
A question shapes your lips, your eyes glisten 
 Retaining tears, but there are no more words. 

Published in Ebony and Topaz, 1927

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