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

Poems by Georgia Douglas Johnson in "The Book of American Negro Poetry" (1922)


The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o'er life's turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.
The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.


The dew is on the grasses, dear,
  The blush is on the rose,
And swift across our dial-youth,
  A shifting shadow goes.
The primrose moments, lush with bliss,
  Exhale and fade away,
Life may renew the Autumn time,
  But nevermore the May!


Oh, for the veils of my far away youth,
Shielding my heart from the blaze of the truth,
Why did I stray from their shelter and grow
Into the sadness that follows—to know!
Impotent atom with desolate gaze
Threading the tumult of hazardous ways—
Oh, for the veils, for the veils of my youth
Veils that hung low o'er the blaze of the truth!


I want to die while you love me,
  While yet you hold me fair,
While laughter lies upon my lips
  And lights are in my hair.
I want to die while you love me,
  And bear to that still bed,
Your kisses turbulent, unspent
  To warm me when I'm dead.
I want to die while you love me
  Oh, who would care to live
Till love has nothing more to ask
  And nothing more to give!
I want to die while you love me
  And never, never see
The glory of this perfect day
  Grow dim or cease to be.


Would I might mend the fabric of my youth
That daily flaunts its tatters to my eyes,
Would I might compromise awhile with truth
Until our moon now waxing, wanes and dies.
For I would go a further while with you,
And drain this cup so tantalant and fair
Which meets my parched lips like cooling dew,
Ere time has brushed cold fingers thru my hair!


I'm folding up my little dreams
Within my heart to-night,
And praying I may soon forget
The torture of their sight.
For Time's deft fingers scroll my brow
With fell relentless art—
I'm folding up my little dreams
To-night, within my heart!