Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.
All through an empty place I go,
And find her not in any room;
The candles and the lamps I light
Go down before a wind of gloom.
What is Africa to me:
Copper sun or scarlet sea,
Jungle star or jungle track,
Strong bronzed men, or regal black
With two white roses on her breasts,
White candles at head and feet,
Dark Madonna of the grave she rests;
Lord Death has found her sweet.
My father is a quiet man
With sober, steady ways;
For simile, a folded fan;
His nights are like his days.
Dead men are wisest, for they know
How far the roots of flowers go,
How long a seed must rot to grow.
We shall not always plant while others reap
The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute,
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
"Lord, being dark," I said, "I cannot bear
The further touch of earth, the scented air;
Lord, being dark, forewilled to that despair
My color shrouds me in, I am as dirt
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold;
Where long will cling the lips of the moth,
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth;
Then call me traitor if you must,
Shout reason and default!
Say I betray a sacred trust
Aching beyond this vault.