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

Gwendolyn B. Bennett, "Song" (1925)

I am weaving a song of waters,
Shaken from firm, brown limbs,
Or heads thrown back in irreverent mirth.
My song has the lush sweetness
Of moist, dark lips
Where hymns keep company
With old forgotten banjo songs.
Abandon tells you
That I sing the heart of a race
While sadness whispers
That I am the cry of a soul. . . .
A-shoutin’ in de ole camp-meetin’ place,
A-strummin’ o’ de ole banjo.
Singin’ in de moonlight,
Sobbin’ in de dark.
Singin’, sobbin’, strummin’ slow . . .
Singin’ slow; sobbin’ low.
Strummin’, strummin’, strummin’ slow. . . .
Words are bright bugles
That make the shining for my song,
And mothers hold brown babes
To dark, warm breasts
To make my singing sad.
A dancing girl with swaying hips
Sets mad the queen in a harlot’s eye.
Praying slave
Jazz band after
Breaking heart
To the time of laughter. . . .
Clinking chains and minstrelsy
Are welded fast with melody.
A praying slave
With a jazz band after . . .
Singin’ slow, sobbin’ low.
Sun-baked lips will kiss the earth.
Throats of bronze will burst with mirth.
Sing a little faster,
Sing a little faster!

Published in The New Negro: an Interpretation, 1925

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