African American Poetry (1870-1927): A Digital Anthology

Fenton Johnson, "The Marathon Runner" (1927)

The Marathon Runner 

IF I have run my course and seek the pearls
My Psyche fain would drink at Mermelon
And rest content in wine and nectar cup
Who knows but that the gods have found me whole
And in their stewardship of man would bless
The sweating lover fickle man once knew?
I know that I might pull the tendon bands
That hold my soul together-ay, might bend
Each nerve and muscle spirit fain would keep
That I might hear the maddening cheers of men
Who when the morrow dawns forget the games
And cast instead the dice in market place.
But I have found sweeter peace than fame;
And in the evening dwell on heights divine,
Betwixt my lips a rose from Cupid's hands,
Upon my brow the laurel Belvidere
Entwines from tree beside the throne of Zeus
And flowing from my speech Athene's words
Dipped long in wisdom's fount to heal the soul.

Published in Caroling Dusk1927