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

Helene Johnson, "Fulfillment" (1926)

Awarded First Honorable Mention -- Poetry Section 
[Opportunity Poetry Prize 1926

To climb a hill that hungers for the sky,
To dig my hands wrist deep in pregnant earth,
To watch a young bird, veering, learn to fly,
To give a still, stark poem shining birth.

To hear the rain drool, dimpling, down the drain
And splash with a wet giggle in the street,
To ramble in the twilight after supper,
And to count the pretty faces that you meet.

To ride to town on trolleys, crowded, teeming
With joy and hurry and laughter and push and sweat —
Squeezed next a patent-leathered Negro dreaming
Of a wrinkled river and a minnow net.

To buy a paper from a breathless boy,
And read of kings and queens in foreign lands,
Hyperbole of romance and adventure,
All for a penny the color of my hand.

To lean against a strong tree's bosom, sentient
And hushed before the silent prayer it breathes,
To melt the still snow with my seething body
And kiss the warm earth tremulous underneath.

Ah, life, to let your stabbing beauty pierce me
And wound me like we did the studded Christ,
To grapple with you, loving you too fiercely,
And to die bleeding — consummate with Life.


Published in Opportunity, June 1926

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