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

Dialogue by Countee Cullen

Soul: There is no stronger thing than song;
   In sun and rain and leafy trees
   It wafts the timid soul along
   On crested waves of melodies.

Body: But leaves the body bare to feed
   Its hunger with its very need.

Soul: Although the frenzied belly writhes,
   Yet render up in song your tithes;
   Song is the weakling's oaken rod,
   His Jacob's ladder dropped from God.

Body: Song is not drink; song is not meat,
   Nor strong, thick shoes for naked feet.

Soul: Who sings by unseen hands is fed
   With honeyed milk and warm, white bread;
   His ways in pastures green are led,
   And perfumed oil illumes his head;
   His cup with wine is surfeited,
   And when the last low note is read,
   He sings among the lipless dead
   With singing stars to crown his head.

Body: But will song buy a wooden box
   The length of me from toe to crown,
   To keep me safe from carrion flocks
   When singing's done and lyre laid down?

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