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

Carrie Williams Clifford, "Our Women of the Canteen" (1922)

Editor's Note

Who shall tell the story of our women of the canteen?
Our women, golden, dusk and brown
Ministering in France to our brave boys,
Our brave, black boys
Fighting in Flanders!
Our stevedores in France unloading the ships,
Building the roads in Picardy,
That world-democracy might be a dream come true!
Was a soldier broken, dazed and exhausted by the hell of war?
Was his heart breaking with thoughts of home?
Did he yearn hungrily for mother, wife or sister?
Then would come these women
Dusk and gold and brown,
And with the tender, ministering hand of mother,
Or with the camaraderie of sister
Or the soul-sympathy of an understanding wife,
These dark women of the canteen
Would mirror to our boys
A bit of home, in France,
Heartening them for a return to the trenches,
And to the building of the roads,
And the unloading of the ships.
Oh, who shall sing the glory
Of our women of the canteen!

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