Fenton Johnson, "Tired" (1919)
I am tired of work; I am tired of building up somebody else's civilization.
Let us take a rest, M'Lissy Jane.
I will go down to the Last Chance Saloon, drink a gallon or two of gin,
shoot a game or two of dice and sleep the rest of the night on one of
You will let the old shanty go to rot, the white people's clothes turn to
dust, and the Calvary Baptist Church sink to the bottomless pit.
You will spend your days forgetting you married me and your nights hunting
the warm gin Mike serves the ladies in the rear of the Last Chance Saloon.
Throw the children into the river; civilization has given us too many. It
is better to die than it is to grow up and find out that you are colored.
Pluck the stars out of the heavens. The stars mark our destiny. The stars
marked my destiny.
I am tired of civilization.
Published in "Others" (1919) and The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922)