African American Poetry (1870-1926): A Digital Anthology

Effie Lee Newsome (Mary Effie Lee), "Morning Light" (1918)

(The Dew-drier)

It is a custom in some parts of Africa for travelers into the jungles to send before them in the early morning little African boys called “Dew-driers” to brush with their bodies the dew from the high grasses—and be, perchance, the first to meet the leopard’s or hyena’s challenge—and so open the road. “Human Brooms,” Dan Crawford calls them.

Brother to the firefly—
For as the firefly lights the night
So lights he the morning—
Bathed in the dank dews as he goes forth
Through heavy menace and mystery
Of half-waking tropic dawns,
Behold a little black boy, a naked black boy,
Sweeping aside with his slight frame
Night’s pregnant tears,
And making a morning path to the light
For the tropic traveler!

Bathed in the blood of battle,
Treading toward a new morning,
May not his race—its body long bared to the world’s disdain,
Its face schooled to smile for a light to come—
May not his race, even as the dew-boy leads,
Bear onward the world toward a new day-dawn
When tolerance, forgiveness,
Such as reigned in the heart of One
Whose heart was gold,
Shall shape the earth for that fresh dawning
     After the dews of blood?


Published in The Crisis, November 1918

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