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

James Weldon Johnson, "The Suicide" (1917)


    For fifty years,
    Cruel, insatiable Old World,
    You have punched me over the heart
    Till you made me cough blood.
    The few paltry things I gathered
    You snatched out of my hands.
    You have knocked the cup from my thirsty lips.
    You have laughed at my hunger of body and soul.

    You look at me now and think,
    "He is still strong,
    There ought to be twenty more years of good punching there.
    At the end of that time he will be old and broken,
    Not able to strike back,
    But cringing and crying for leave
    To live a little longer."

    Those twenty, pitiful, extra years
    Would please you more than the fifty past,
    Would they not, Old World?
    Well, I hold them up before your greedy eyes,
    And snatch them away as I laugh in your face,
    Ha! Ha!

Published in Fifty Years and Other Poems, 1917