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

Effie Lee Newsome, Poems from "The Little Page" in "The Crisis" (1927)


Carol For Christmas

Let Christmas light glow in fireside and hall
Let Christmas horns blow and Christmas bells call
Oh, pleasant, pleasant be the day
That marks our Lord’s nativity!


In wintertime I have such fun
When I play quoits with father
I beat him almost every game
He never seems to bother

He looks at mother and just smiles
All this seems strange to me,
For when he plays with grown-up folks,
He beats them easily.

Last Year's Doll

I’m last year’s doll—
That’s really all—
Nobody cares for me.
Another face swings from the place
I once had on a tree

The new doll’s dress
Is rose and lace,
My own was made of blue
That once was clean with such a sheen
As only silver knew.

Now I’m all gray,
Shoes thrown away,
Nobody cares for me!
The brand-new doll is really all
That any one can see.

But just next year
She’ll lie down here,
Where I lie by the tree,
Her rose-pink frock enough to shock
Even the outcast ME!

The Wishing Boats

Over bright seas they glide and glide,
The Wishing Boats, with sails spread wide,
To bring in crates marked “FULFILLED HERE,”
Those wishes you sent out last year.


Till 3:33

There once was a rabbit
Who formed the wild habit
Of running away!
By highland or lowland
By dry land or snow land
He went every day,
With scarcely once stopping,
A-jumping and hopping,
He just could not stay.

At length he was found,
One time, by a hound,
But somehow got free.
He fled like a swallow
Right into the hollow
Of quite a large tree.
With all of his might
He stayed out of sight
Till 3:33.


The Maypole

Round the Maypole we go,
The Maypole we go,
The Maypole we go,
Birds on the trees,
Blooms on the leas,
Children as merry and gay as you please.
Round the Maypole we go,
The Maypole we go,
The Maypole we go,

Polio, Polio, Red Lollipop

Polio, Polio, red lollipop,
Who brought you here
From the king’s candy shop?
Red as a cherry, round as a top,
Polio, Polio, red lollipop.

Mignonette Beds

They’re beautiful but very high,
Those gorgeous gardens of the sky.
Nobody’s ever been, there yet
to gather rose and mignonette.

In morning though and at sunset
The skies are gay with mignonette
That mixes with the brighter flowers
Of dawning and of sunset hours.

The real red poppy, pink sweat pea,
Sage, crimson as a flower can be,
Bee balm and gorgeous marigold,
And tiger lily bright and bold.

These all are blooming overhead
Whenever skies are pink and red
Or streaked with gold and orange light
(The mignonette is always white).

And always glowing in the sky
Long after other blossoms die
And in the night of purple gloom
You'll see the mignonette’s pale bloom.

They’re beautiful but very high,
Those gorgeous gardens of the sky.
Nobody’s ever been there yet
To gather rose and mignonette.



While I was sleeping all the clouds
Dropped dandelions on this hill.
I left it when I went to bed
As dull as any whippoorwill,

But now this morning, just look here!
Their gold is sprinkled all around,
Hiding the very blades of grass
That long have covered up the ground.

Bright like a thousand stars of gold,
Set in a winter’s sky,
Gleam all the dandelions’ lights,
Held up so straight and high.

Cat of Muscat

I met a cat clear from Muscat.
Her eyes were very green,
Her beard quite strong and stiff and long,
Expression rather mean.
I thought it strange that she should MEW
Just as our home-grown kitties do.

Spring Rains

When spring rains come
The wet earth wakes
And smells all fresh and new,
Like grasses smell deep down at root
When blades are full of dew.

It smells as though the whole wide earth
Were being made again,
When trees and lawns are washed off fresh
With cooling springtime rain.


I Saw a Silly Little Ship That Had No Sort of Sail

I saw a silly little ship
That had no sort of sail
Set out upon a summer trip
To ride upon a gale.

It never has been seen since then—
That’s what the people say.
I’d rather stay forever home
Than go to sea that way.

I’d rather stay and float toy ships
Here on this little stream 
Than try to gain the Spanish Main
With neither sail nor stream.


Gray pigeons seem each one to have 
A green steel basinet.
And those of tan appear to wear
Helmets of violet.

It seems a splendid thing to me
Their helmet colors aren’t the same.
I play the greens are Italy
And give the rest some other name.


I’d have these notes so clear and light,
These tones so gay and airy
That they could fit into the throat
Of any sort of fairy.

The rhymes one writes for summer days
Should suit the fancy of the fays,
Bright, brisk and whimsical and merry,
Fine measure for some fritillary.

Say, Silver Spot, all violet fed,
And hatched upon a violet bed.
I’d tune my little songs just so
For fritillaries as they go.

The Gay Fireflies

The gay fireflies have Fourth of Julies
As long as the summer is here.
Their skyrocket lights flash out in the nights
Quite dazzling and brilliant and clear.



In All Other Studies They’d Balk

Prof. Pea Green the parrot
Kept school in a garret
To teach other parrots to talk.
The way they learnt mocking
Was something quite shocking.
In all other studies they'd balk.

The Gardener 

I think I'll be a gardener
When I’m a grown up man,
And have my peas and beans come up
As early as I can.

Now when my peas are little vines,
Why then I’m going to fix
Something for them to climb upon,
Made out of strings and sticks.

Then when my peas are all quite grown,
And big and green and pretty,
I’ll haul them in my truck to sell
To markets in the city.

The Ducks

On moonlight nights the ducks go
strutting round,
Making a little squawking sort of sound.
Then in the afternoon each tucks its head
Under one wing and seems to go to bed.
All sit together, drowsy, on the grass, 
And yet somehow, they hear us as we pass.

The Elm

The pear trees fork so near the ground
That they’re not hard to climb,
I like to get into a tree
That takes a little time.
I'll leave the girls the pear and peach,
An elm tree top is best to reach.



A Black Boy Dreams

I trot on with the silver streams,
And laugh and build my little dreams.
I trip on with the lively brooks
Through meadowland and wood.
Ha, ho! How merrily I run!
To dream and move along is fun.
I tread the meads of yesterday
Where once the Indians used to play.
The soil belonged to white men next…
How many changes it has known!
For now it is my father’s own!
I trot on with these silver streams, 
And laugh and build my little dreams,
Ha, ho, how merrily I run!
To dream yet move along is fun.

Bob White All Right?

It seems to me the quiet quail
When he steps through the stubble
So smoothly with his head thrown back,
As though it were no trouble,
Is not saying his name at all,
But asking this politely,
“Bob White all right?
Bob White all right?”
In sounds so clear and sprightly.


The Umbrella Man

The man who mends umbrellas up,
He’s wonderful, that’s all.
He even fixes flabby ones
With broken stays that sprawl.

He sits right down on your back steps,
And does his mending there.
He fastens wrinkled tops to wires,
And smooths them down with care.

I’m certain he has lots of time,
At least, it seems that way.
He lifts the mended ones up high
To see if they will stay,

Then closes them and tries again,
Just whistling quietly.
The bag that holds his mending things
Is lying on his knee.

He shakes the old umbrellas out,
When all the mending’s through,
Tells what it cost and nods and says,
“You've got a good job, too.”

He thanks you when the paying’s done,
Then goes off, slow, to find
More work right in your neighbor’s yard,
Just of that very kind.

You look and see him through the fence
All bent with knees up high,
And hear him whistling those same tunes
He did your mending by.




I am so thankful to the Lord
For all the good He gives,
For all His joys
To girls and boys
And everything that lives!

I am so glad I know the birds,
Have heard the cardinal sing,
Have found the haws in crimson fruit
And red, wings at the spring!

The Butterfly’s Home

found a butterfly’s brown home
Swung from a willow bough.
The nest was just a leaf rolled up
Into a cone somehow,
Covered around and round with silk
The caterpillard’d spun,
And fastened firmly to a branch,
Thread after thread, when done, 
So that the winter winds might blow
Hard at the little house,
Yet it would keep the butterfly
Warm as a pantry mouse.


Fairies and Brownies
By Gertrude Parthenia McBrown

Yes, I believe in fairies,
I believe in brownies too.
Yes, I believe in fairies
Because I know they’re true.
And if you'll learn to love them,
They'll come to play with you.

When Ma Goes Out
By Anna Lawson

When Ma goes out, we kids “dress up”;
Pretend we're “grown-ups” then.
Joe gets big brother’s “Sunday vest”,
May wears Ma’s dress for “very best”,
I, sister’s brand new slippers test,
When Ma goes out.
We always have a lot of fun
With Pa’s old broken gun.
We walk, and strut, and toss our heads—
Our hands in gloves, tho’ feet in “Keds’”—
We dream of castles, not of sheds,
When Ma goes out.


By Edith Harris 

Dear Mother Earth is tired, I know,
Of wearing flowered frocks so gay.
A little fairy told me that
Miss Nature packed her frills away.
The daisy blue and sweet red rose
Perhaps she’ll find are just the thing,
When March has swept away the snows,
In which to dress herself next spring.
She’s picked some new and pretty gowns
All trimmed in yellow goldenrods
And leaves of red, golden and browns,
Designs of Autumn Fashion Gods.
She cared not of her wishes, though,
Or whether we would frown or smile.
She'll wear new gowns till Mr. Snow
Advises her to change her style.


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