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

W.E.B. Du Bois, "The Christmas Prayers of God" (1914)

Name of God's Name!
Red murder reigns;
All Hell is loose;
On gold autumnal air
Walk grinning devils barbed and hoofed,
While high on hills of hate,
Black-blossomed, crimson sky'd,
Thou sittest, dumb.

Father Almighty!
This earth is mad!
Palsied, our cunning hands;
Rotten, our gold;
Our argosies reel and stagger
Over empty seas;
All the long aisles
Of Thy great temples, God,
Stink with the entrails
Of our souls.
And Thou art dumb.

Above the thunder of Thy thunders, Lord,
Lightening Thy lightnings,
Rings and roars
The dark damnation
Of this Hell of war.
Red piles the pulp of hearts and heads,
And little children's hands.

Death is here!
Dead are the living, deep dead the dead.
Dying are earth's unborn—

The babes' wide eyes of genius and of joy;
Poems and prayers, sun-glows and earthsongs;
Great pictured dreams,
En-marbled phantasies,
Hymns of high Heaven,
All fade, in this dread night,
This long ghost night—
While Thou art dumb.

Have Mercy!
Have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!
Stand forth, unveil Thy face,
Pour down the light
That seethes above Thy throne,
And blaze this devil's dance to darkness!
In Christ's great name— 

* * * 
I hear.
Forgive me, God.
Above the thunder I hearkened;
Beneath the silence, now, I hear.

* * *
(Wait, God, a little space.
It is so strange to talk with Thee—

* * *
This gold?
I took it.
Is it Thine?
Forgive; I did not know. 

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