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

Paul Laurence Dunbar, "The Debt" (1902)

This is the debt I pay
  Just for one riotous day,
  Years of regret and grief,
  Sorrow without relief.

  Pay it I will to the end--
  Until the grave, my friend,
  Gives me a true release--
  Gives me the clasp of peace.

  Slight was the thing I bought,
  Small was the debt I thought,
  Poor was the loan at best--
  God! but the interest!

Published in Lyrics of Love and Laughter (1902)
Also printed in Caroling Dusk (1927)