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Margaret Walker: Online Poems

[The following six poems by Margaret Walker are taken from the Internet Poetry Archive, sponsored by the University of North Carolina Press and the North Carolina Arts Council.]

Dark Blood

There were bizarre beginnings in old lands for the making
        of me. There were sugar sands and islands of fern and
        pearl, palm jungles and stretches of a never-ending sea.

There were the wooing nights of tropical lands and the cool
        discretion of flowering plains between two stalwart
        hills. They nurtured my coming with wanderlust. I
        sucked fevers of adventure through my veins with my
        mother's milk.

Someday I shall go to the tropical lands of my birth, to the
        coasts of continents and the tiny wharves of island
        shores. I shall roam the Balkans and the hot lanes of
        Africa and Asia. I shall stand on mountain tops and
        gaze on fertile homes below.

And when I return to Mobile I shall go by the way of
        Panama and Bocas del Toro to the littered streets and
        the one-room shacks of my old poverty, and blazing suns
        of other lands may struggle then to reconcile the pride
        and pain in me.

Online Source

I Want to Write

I want to write
I want to write the songs of my people.
I want to hear them singing melodies in the dark.
I want to catch the last floating strains from their sob-torn
I want to frame their dreams into words; their souls into
I want to catch their sunshine laughter in a bowl;
fling dark hands to a darker sky
and fill them full of stars
then crush and mix such lights till they become
a mirrored pool of brilliance in the dawn.

Online Source

We Have Been Believers

We have been believers believing in the black gods of an old
        land, believing in the secrets of the seeress and the
        magic of the charmers and the power of the devil's evil

And in the white gods of a new land we have been believers
        believing in the mercy of our masters and the beauty of
        our brothers, believing in the conjure of the humble
        and the faithful and the pure.

Neither the slaves' whip nor the lynchers' rope nor the
        bayonet could kill our black belief. In our hunger we
        beheld the welcome table and in our nakedness the
        glory of a long white robe. We have been believers in
        the new Jerusalem.

We have been believers feeding greedy grinning gods, like a
        Moloch demanding our sons and our daughters, our
        strength and our wills and our spirits of pain. We have
        been believers, silent and stolid and stubborn and

We have been believers yielding substance for the world.
        With our hands have we fed a people and out of our
        strength have they wrung the necessities of a nation.
        Our song has filled the twilight and our hope has
        heralded the dawn.

Now we stand ready for the touch of one fiery iron, for the
        cleansing breath of many molten truths, that the eyes
        of the blind may see and the ears of the deaf may hear
        and the tongues of the people be filled with living fire.

Where are our gods that they leave us asleep? Surely the
        priests and the preachers and the powers will hear.
        Surely now that our hands are empty and our hearts too
        full to pray they will understand. Surely the sires of
        the people will send us a sign.

We have been believers believing in our burdens and our
        demigods too long. Now the needy no longer weep and
        pray; the long-suffering arise, and our fists bleed
        against the bars with a strange insistency.

Online Source

Molly Means

Old Molly means was a hag and a witch;
Chile of the devil, the dark, and sitch.
Her heavy hair hung thick in ropes
And her blazing eyes was black as picch.
Imp at three and wench at 'leben
She counted her husbands to the number seben.
        O Molly, Molly, Molly Means
        There goes the ghost of Molly Means.

Some say she was born with a veil on her face
So she could look through unnatural space
Through the future and through the past
And charm a body or an evil place
And every man could well despise
The evil look in her coal black eyes.
        Old Molly, Molly, Molly Means
        Dark is the ghost of Molly Means.

And when the tale begun to spread
Of evil and of holy dread:
Her black-hand arts and her evil powers
How she could cast her spells and called the dead,
The younguns was afraid at night
And the farmers feared their crops would blight.
        Old Molly, Molly, Molly Means
        Cold is the ghost of Molly Means.

Then one dark day she put a spell
On a young gal-bride just come to dwell
In the lane just down from Molly's shack
And when her husband come riding back
His wife was barking like a dog
And on all fours like a common hog.
        O Molly, Molly, Molly Means
        Where is the ghost of Molly Means?

The neighbors come and they went away
And said she'd die before break of day
But her husband held her in his arms
And swore he'd break the wicked charms;
He'd search all up and down the land
And turn the spell on Molly's hand.
        O Molly, Molly, Molly Means
        Sharp is the ghost of Molly Means.

So he rode all day and he rode all night
And at the dawn he come in sight
Of a man who said he could move the spell
And cause the awful thing to dwell
On Molly Means, to bark and bleed
Till she died at the hands of her evil deed.
        Old Molly, Molly, Molly Means
        This is the ghost of Molly Means.

Sometimes at night through the shadowy trees
She rides along on a winter breeze.
You can hear her holler and whine and cry.
Her voice is thin and her moan is high,
And her cackling laugh or her barking cold
Bring terror to the young and old.
        O Molly, Molly, Molly Means
        Lean is the ghost of Molly Means.

Online Source

Southern Song

I want my body bathed again by southern suns, my soul
        reclaimed again from southern land. I want to rest
        again in southern fields, in grass and hay and clover
        bloom; to lay my hand again upon the clay baked by a
        southern sun, to touch the rain-soaked earth and smell
        the smell of soil.

I want my rest unbroken in the fields of southern earth;
        freedom to watch the corn wave silver in the sun and
        mark the splashing of a brook, a pond with ducks and
        frogs and count the clouds.

I want no mobs to wrench me from my southern rest; no
        forms to take me in the night and burn my shack and
        make for me a nightmare full of oil and flame.

I want my careless song to strike no minor key; no fiend to
        stand between my body's soutnern song--the fusion of
        the South, my body's song and me.

Online Source

Sorrow Home

My roots are deep in southern life; deeper than John Brown
        or Nat Turner or Robert Lee. I was sired and weaned
        in a tropic world. The palm tree and banana leaf,
        mango and coconut, breadfruit and rubber trees know

Warm skies and gulf blue streams are in my blood. I belong
        with the smell of fresh pine, with the trail of coon, and
        the spring growth of wild onion.

I am no hothouse bulb to be reared in steam-heated flats
        with the music of El and subway in my ears, walled in
        by steel and wood and brick far from the sky.

I want the cotton fields, tobacco and the cane. I want to
        walk along with sacks of seed to drop in fallow ground.
        Restless music is in my heart and I am eager to be

O Southland, sorrow home, melody beating in my bone and
        blood! How long will the Klan of hate, the hounds and
        the chain gangs keep me from my own?

Online Source

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