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

Joseph S. Cotter, Sr., "The Way-Side Well" (or: "The Wayside Well") (1925)

A FANCY halts my feet at the way-side well.
It is not to drink, for they say the water is brackish.
It is not to tryst, for a heart at the mile's end beckons me on.
It is not to rest, for what feet could be weary when a heart at the mile's end keeps time with their tread?
It is not to muse, for the heart at the mile's end is food for my being.
I will question the well for my secret by dropping a pebble into it.

Ah, it is dry.
Strike lightning to the road, my feet, for hearts are like wells.
You may not know they are dry 'til you question their depths.
Fancies clog the way to Heaven, and saints miss their crown.

Published in Opportunity, June 1925
Awarded Fourth Place in Opportunity poetry competition
Also published in Caroling Dusk, 1927


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