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

Poems by William Stanley Braithwaite in "The Book of American Negro Poetry" (1922)


Sandy Star and Willie Gee,
Count 'em two, you make 'em three:
Pluck the man and boy apart
And you'll see into my heart.



_Sculptured Worship_

The zones of warmth around his heart,
  No alien airs had crossed;
But he awoke one morn to feel
  The magic numbness of autumnal frost.

His thoughts were a loose skein of threads,
  And tangled emotions, vague and dim;
And sacrificing what he loved
  He lost the dearest part of him.

In sculptured worship now he lives,
  His one desire a prisoned ache;
If he can never melt again
  His very heart will break.


_Laughing It Out_

He had a whim and laughed it out
  Upon the exit of a chance;
He floundered in a sea of doubt--
  If life was real--or just romance.

Sometimes upon his brow would come
  A little pucker of defiance;
He totalled in a word the sum
  Of all man made of facts and science.

And then a hearty laugh would break,
  A reassuring shrug of shoulder;
And we would from his fancy take
  A faith in death which made life bolder.



No, his exit by the gate
  Will not leave the wind ajar;
He will go when it is late
  With a misty star.

One will call, he cannot see;
  One will call, he will not hear;
He will take no company
  Nor a hope or fear.

We shall smile who loved him so--
  They who gave him hate will weep;
But for us the winds will blow
  Pulsing through his sleep.


_The Way_

He could not tell the way he came,
  Because his chart was lost:
Yet all his way was paved with flame
  From the bourne he crossed.

He did not know the way to go,
  Because he had no map:
He followed where the winds blow,--
  And the April sap.

He never knew upon his brow
  The secret that he bore,--
And laughs away the mystery now
  The dark's at his door.


_Onus Probandi_

No more from out the sunset,
  No more across the foam,
No more across the windy hills
  Will Sandy Star come home.

He went away to search it
  With a curse upon his tongue:
And in his hand the staff of life,
  Made music as it swung.

I wonder if he found it,
  And knows the mystery now--
Our Sandy Star who went away,
  With the secret on his brow.


Del Cascar, Del Cascar,
Stood upon a flaming star,
Stood, and let his feet hang down
Till in China the toes turned brown.

And he reached his fingers over
The rim of the sea, like sails from Dover,
And caught a Mandarin at prayer,
And tickled his nose in Orion's hair.

The sun went down through crimson bars,
And left his blind face battered with stars--
But the brown toes in China kept
Hot the tears Del Cascar wept.


Turn me to my yellow leaves,
I am better satisfied;
There is something in me grieves--
That was never born, and died.
Let me be a scarlet flame
On a windy autumn morn,
I who never had a name,
Nor from breathing image born.
From the margin let me fall
Where the farthest stars sink down,
And the void consumes me,--all
In nothingness to drown.
Let me dream my dream entire,
Withered as an autumn leaf--
Let me have my vain desire,
Vain--as it is brief.


There are no hollows any more
Between the mountains; the prairie floor
Is like a curtain with the drape
Of the winds' invisible shape;
And nowhere seen and nowhere heard
The sea's quiet as a sleeping bird.

Now we're traveling, what holds back
Arrival, in the very track
Where the urge put forth; so we stay
And move a thousand miles a day.
Time's a Fancy ringing bells
Whose meaning, charlatan history, tells!


I kissed a kiss in youth
  Upon a dead man's brow;
And that was long ago,--
  And I'm a grown man now.

It's lain there in the dust,
  Thirty years and more;--
My lips that set a light
  At a dead man's door.


Heart free, hand free,
  Blue above, brown under,
All the world to me
  Is a place of wonder.
Sun shine, moon shine,
  Stars, and winds a-blowing,
All into this heart of mine
  Flowing, flowing, flowing!

Mind free, step free,
  Days to follow after,
Joys of life sold to me
  For the price of laughter.
Girl's love, man's love,
  Love of work and duty,
Just a will of God's to prove
  Beauty, beauty, beauty!


I am glad daylong for the gift of song,
For time and change and sorrow;
For the sunset wings and the world-end things
Which hang on the edge of to-morrow.
I am glad for my heart whose gates apart
Are the entrance-place of wonders,
Where dreams come in from the rush and din
Like sheep from the rains and thunders.

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