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

Louise Wallace, "To a Loved One" (1926)

Mrs. Florence B. Price, of Little Rock, Arkansas, has discovered a promising young poet in the person of Miss Lovise Wallace of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Mrs. Price writes us: “There is no one close to encourage her. Her mother is dead. . . . She has never been to college for she’s been too busy sending all the other brothers and sisters there. This self-effacing girl shows ability, fineness of character and generosity.”

Up from the ashes of my house I build again.
And in the cup of dregs I pour new wine.
Through the bitter pain of birth Life creeps—
Its wailing lips Wet with dewy sweet.
Thy mouth is a scarlet stain That seeps
Bitter and sweet together.
Thine eyes are dancing pools That laugh
In fair and stormy weather.
Thy heart is a bird that soars And sings
Up to the feet of God;
And from thy wings drops down To me
One shining azure feather.
Some spin dreams
That are drenched in sun;
And some are woven in mist
Of moon and gleam of stars.
Others soak in blood and tears,
Know sorrow through the years.
But mine are woven warp and woof
Of You—the love of You!
Thy heart’s a violin
And Caprice doth draw the bow.
Its music throbs and in ecstasy
It rises to the stars,
But forever doth return
A minor strain—
A note of pain.
Life! The slow sad-sweet murmur
Of April rain.

The Moon hath laid her hands on thee!
The Moon and the Summer Night.
The jasmine flower did the Night
Steal for thy perfume.
The passion flower did she crush
To paint thy sleeping mouth.
And for thy hair she took her veil—
And the lovely Moon looked deep,
Ah, deep into thine eyes.
But an elfin breeze passed by and snared
A singing bird from the trees,
And forever it beats its imprison’d wings
Against the bars of thy heart.
Thine eyes hold hunger Stark and cruel,
As theirs who, dying, Wail for bread.
Thy mouth holds yearning Unfulfill’d,
As theirs who weeping, Kiss their dead.
Thy breast is wet With thy lover’s tears.
Hath not.his desire Reached thine ears?
Why quell Desire
Since through its pain
Comes Life?
Why strain Life slow As through a sieve
Since at its end
Comes Death?
Some say that Life
Is but a night
Whose stars are blotted
Out by Day.
And others sing that Life’s a kiss—
Taste well its sweetness
While ye may!
I love thee, and straightway
My heart is turn’d to a lovely thing—
A dusky garden where at eve

The scent of the jasmine clings.
I want thee—and my thoughts
Are swallows homing on the wing.
I have thee in my arms;
That heart of mine, those thoughts
Are a mocking bird that sings!

Published in The Crisis, February 1926

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