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

Franke Horne, "Letters Found Near a Suicide" (1925) (Spingarn Prize)

Second prize poem in the Amy Spingarn Contest. Dr. Horne was born in New York City in 1899. He was educated at the College of the City of New York, the University of Chicago and the Northern Illinois College of Opthalmology. He is a practising optometrist in New York City.

* * *
To All of You

My little stone
Sinks quickly Into the bosom of this deep, dark pool
Of oblivion...
I have troubled its breast but little.
Yet those far shores
That knew me not
Will feel the fleeting, furtive kiss
Of my tiny concentric ripples.... 

To Lewellyn

You have borne full well
The burden of my friendship—
I have drunk deep
At your crystal pool,
And in return
I have-polluted its waters
With the bile of my hatred,
I have flooded your soul
With tortuous thoughts,
I have played Iscariot
To your Pythias... 

To Mother

I came In the blinding sweep
Of ecstatic pain,
I go In the throbbing pulse
Of Aching Space,
In the eons between
I piled upon you
Pain on pain
Ache on ache
And yet as I go
I shall know
That you will grieve
And want me back..... 

To Bennetti

You have freed me—
In opening wide the doors
Of fiesh—
You have freed me
Of the binding leash.
I have climbed the heights
Of white disaster.
My body screaming
In the silver crash of passion.....
Before you gave yourself
To him
I had chained myself
For you.
But when at last
You lowered your proud flag
In surrender complete
You gave me too, as hostage—
And I have swept my joy
At the dawn-tipped shrine
Of many breasts. 

To Jean

When you poured your love
Like molten flame
Into the throbbing mold
Of her pulsing veins
Leaving her blood a river of fire
And her arteries channels of light,
I hated you... 
Hated with that primal hate
That has its wells
In the flesh of me
And the flesh of you
And the flesh of her
I hated you—
Hated with envy
Your mastery of her being. .
With one fleshy gesture
You pricked the irridescent bubble
Of my dreams
And so to make
Your conquest more sweet
I tell you now
That I hated you...

To Catalina

Love thy piano,Oh girl,
It will give you back
Note for Note
The harmonies of your soul.
It will sing back to you
The high songs of your heart.
It will give
As well as take.

To Mariette

I sought ccnsolation
In the sorrow of your eyes.
You sought reguerdon
In the crying of my heart. .
We found that shattered dreamers
Can be bitter hosts.... 

To ————

You call it
Death of the Spirit
And I call it Life...
The vigor of vibration,
The muffled knocks,
The silver sheen of passion’s flood,
The ecstacy of pain..
You call it
Death of the Spirit
And I call it Life.

To Telie

You have made my voice
A rippling laugh
But my heart
A crying thing .
’Tis better thus,
A fleeting kiss
And then,
The dark

To “Chick”

Oh Achilles of the moleskins
And the gridiron
Do not wonder
Nor doubt that this is I
That lie so calmly here—
This is the same exultant beast
That so joyously
Ran the ball with you
In those far flung days of abandon.
You remember how récklessly
We revelled in the heat and the dust
And the swirl of conflict?
You remember they called us
The Terrible Two?
And you remember
After we had battered our heads
And our bodies
Against the stonewall of their defense,—
You remember the signal
I would call
And how you would look at me
In faith and admiration
And say “Let’s go”...
How the lines would clash
And strain,
And how I would find an opening,
A wee small space,
Amidst tangling arms and torsos,
And how I would slip through
Fighting and squirming
Over the line
To victory.
You remember, Chick?
When you gaze at me here
Let that same light
Of faith and admiration
Shine in your eyes
For I have battered the stark stonewall
Before me. 
I have kept faith with you
And now
I have called my signal,
Found my opening
And slipped through
Fighting and squirming
Over the line
To victory.

To Wanda

To you, so far away
So cold and aloof, -
To you, who knew me so well,
This is my last Grand Gesture
This my last Great Effect
And as I go winging
Through the black doors of eternity
Is that thin sound I hear
Your applause? ..... 


Published in The Crisis, November 1925

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