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

Countee Cullen, "Pagan Prayer" (1924)

Not for myself I make this prayer,
   But for this race of mine
That stretches forth from shadowed places
   Dark hands for bread and wine.

For me, my heart is pagan mad,
   My feet are never still,
But give them hearths to keep them warm
   In homes high on a hill.

For me, my faith lies fallowing,
   I bow not till I see,
But these are humble and believe;
   Bless their credulity.

For me, I pay my debts in kind,
   And see no better way,
Bless these who turn the other cheek
   For love of you, and pray.

Our Father, God, our Brother, Christ
   So are we taught to pray;
Their kinship seems a little thing
   Who sorrow all the day.

Our Father, God; our Brother, Christ,
   Or are we bastard kin,
That to our plaints your ears are closed,
   Your doors barred from within?

Our Father, God; our Brother, Christ,
   Retrieve my race again;
So shall you compass this black sheep,
   This pagan heart. Amen.


Published in The Messenger, March 1924
Also published in Color, 1925

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