I may have found a new calling in life. A few days ago, I was casually perusing (as one does) the list of works published in 1927, which became copyright-free as of January 1, 2023. I was amused to see that some of them haven’t shown up on Kindle, so I remedied that: from now on, if any Kindle user downloads T.S. Eliot’s “Salutation” or “Journey of the Magi,” I’ll net 35 cents. Heh.

When I looked a bit closer, I found that some Black poets also didn’t have a lot of presence on Kindle. Digitizing their works from random PDFs and scanned books took quite a while longer… By now, I’ve prepared, proofread, and uploaded several of their poetry collections: not for any sort of serious profit (I’d get only $1.05 per download, hardly worth several days’ work) but because I found something disturbing… Some of those poems disappeared. They don’t show up on Google Scholar, on plain old Google, or in any online poetry collections. In other words, it’s as if they never existed at all.

My own contributions to civilization in general and the field of literature in particular are – let’s be honest – virtually nonexistent. But if I can find, digitize, and upload lost works of long-gone poets… Well, as long as this blog and its mirrors remain up (decades, hopefully), their legacy will live on. This is an interesting intersection of my talents (data processing and research) and my desire to do something – anything – useful and meaningful. I think preserving and propagating old poems qualifies.

To ensure anyone – students, scholars, and assorted curious folks – can find them, I’ll post them not just on Kindle, but on this blog this as well. Through the magic of indexing, they’ll show up on Google, available for all. Please feel free to repost them on your own blogs and platforms as well, just to ensure there isn’t a single point of failure. May beauty never fade away…

And so, here is the first batch of five resurrected poems, with many more to come.

To a Young Girl Leaving the Hill Country
by Arna Bontemps

The hills are wroth; the stones have scored you bitterly
Because you looked upon the naked sun
Oblivious of them, because you did not see
The trees you touched or mountains that you walked upon.

But there will come a day of darkness in the land,
A day wherein remembered sun alone comes through
To mark the hills; then perhaps you’ll understand
Just how it was you drew from them and they from you.

For there will be a bent old woman in that day
Who, feeling something of this country in her bones,
Will leave her house tapping with a stick, who will (they say)
Come back to seek the girl she was in these familiar stones.

After All
by Donald Jeffrey Hayes

After all and after all
When the song is sung
And swallowed up in silence
It were more real unsung. …

After all and after all
When the lips have stirred
Such a little of the thought
Is transmuted in the word. …

Suffer not my ears with hearing
Suffer not your thoughts with speech.
Let us feel into our meaning
And thus know the all of each.

by Countee Cullen

I know now how a man whose blood is hot
And rich, still undiminished of desire,
Thinking (too soon), “The world is dust and mire,”
Must feel who takes to wife four walls, a cot,
A hemped robe and cowl, saying, “I’ll not
To anything, save God and Heaven’s fire,
Permit a thought; and I will never tire
Of Christ, and in Him all shall be forgot.”

He too, as it were Torquemada’s rack,
Writhes piteously on that unyielding bed,
Crying, “Take Heaven all, but give me back
Those words and sighs without which I am dead;
Which thinking on are lances, and I reel.”
Letting you go, I know how he would feel.

La Belle, La Douce, La Grande
by Countee Cullen

France! How shall we call her belle again?
Does loveliness reside
In sunken cheeks, in bellies barren and denied?
What twisted inconsistent pen
Can ever call her belle again?
Or douce? Can gentleness invade
The frozen heart, the mind betrayed,
Or search for refuge in the viper’s den?
How shall we call her douce again?
Or grande? Did greatness ever season
The broth of shame, repudiation, treason?
Or shine upon the lips of little lying men?
How shall we call her grande again?

Has history no memory, no reason?
What land inhabited of men
Has never known that dark hour when
First it felt the sting of treason?
Petain? Laval? Can they outweigh
By an eyelash or a stone
The softest word she had to say,
That sainted soul of France called Joan?

Nay even now, look up, see fall
As on Elisha Elijah’s shawl,
Joan’s mantle on the gaunt De Gaulle:
New Knight of France, great paladin,
Behold him sally forth to win
Her place anew at freedom’s hand,
A place for France: la belle, la douce, la grande.



by Countee Cullen

How envied, how admired a male,
The forest all emerged to stare
When he came out to take the air.
With bright eye flashing merrily,
He seemed to say, “Come, gaze on me!
Behold as near as animal’s can,
A walk resembling that of man!”
And holding high his haughty head,
He would stroll on with graceful tread.
And how his tiny little ear
Would throb these compliments to hear:
“What charm he has!” “What elegance!”
“The ideal partner for a dance!”
“However do you think he learned?”
At this, although he blushed and burned
To tell them how, he never turned,
But, looking neither left nor right,
Would wander on and out of sight.

But why indeed was he so gifted?
By what strange powers was he lifted
A little nearer to the skies?
The reason’s plain. Hard exercise!
Hard exercise, indeed! You shake
Your head, and think, “When did a snake,
A creature sleepy and inert,
Content to slumber in the dirt,
Or lie in caverns dank and dark,
Exhibit such a worthy spark?”

But be it found in man or horse,
(Or even snake), a driving force
The fever is we call ambition.
When it attacks, there’s no condition
Of man or beast which may withstand
Ambition’s hard, compelling hand.

And from his very, very birth
No common snake was this of ours;
But he was conscious of his worth,
And well aware of all his powers.
He never cared for toads and newts,
For catching flies or digging roots;
No cavern cool could lure him in,
No muddy bank his fancy win.
Wherever man was, there was he!
Eager to watch, eager to see!
He thought it fine that Man could talk,
But finer still that Man could walk.
He thought, “If Man can do this, why
With proper training, so can I.”

He kept his secret from his nearest
Friend, he never told his dearest,
But in a quiet glade he knew
Where none was apt to come and spy,
The more his perseverance grew,
The nearer did his dream draw high;
He practiced patiently and drilled,
And wished, and yearned, and longed, and willed.
From crack of dawn to darkest night,
He practiced sitting bolt upright.
At first he fell with a terrible thump,
And bruised his head and raised a bump;
But, “Walk I will!” is what he said,
And lightly rubbed his aching head.

Night after night, day after day,
He would sit up, and sway and sway,
Until one day, oh, think of it!
He stood and never swayed a bit!
He stood as rigid as a pole,
With perfect ease, perfect control!

Though Men should do most wondrous things
In years to come: on iron wings
Fly faster than the fastest bird,
Or talk or sing, and make it heard
Over mountains and over seas,
You must confess that none of these
Could for excitement quite compare
With Snake triumphant standing there
Tip-toe upon his tail! And now
How to begin? He wondered how!
What should he do? Leap? Jump? Or stride?
His heart was hammering inside
Its narrow cell! His throat was dry!
Ambition’s fever fired his eye.
Within his grasp he had his dream.
Here was his moment, his, supreme!

Just then he chanced to glance and see
Man passing by, most leisurely;
Step after step Man took with ease,
Eclipsing houses, rocks, and trees.
And suddenly our Snake grew pale,
And whimpered forth a woeful wail;
Till Doomsday though he stood on end,
He would not walk! No need pretend!
One thing he lacked to be complete.
Nothing could walk which hadn’t feet!

Down, down, he dropped, and sadly crept
Into a bush nearby, and wept.
The tears he shed were sad and salty;
He felt a failure, weak and faulty.
At last, too weary more to weep,
He curled him up and went to sleep.

But some sweet spirit knew his zeal,
Pitied his grief, and sped to heal.
Our Snake’s ambitious lower tip
Was caught in some magician’s grip,
Till where had been, so sharp and neat
A tail, were now two tiny feet.
It may have been by wishing so
His earnestness had made them grow!
At any rate, as I repeat,
When he awoke, there were his feet!

He wept again, but now for pleasure!
His joy burst forth in lavish measure.
He popped up straighter than an arrow;
Happiness went bubbling through his marrow!

Then gingerly and cautiously,
And praying Heaven kind to be,
He put his best foot forward! Oh,
It knew exactly where to go!
Without the slightest fuss or bother
Straight behind it came the other.
And from that day until his fall,
He was a wonder to them all.

Pray notice well that last remark,
To wit: “Until his fall,” for hark
How too much pride and too much glory
Bring dismal climax to our story.
Our hero, for I still opine
That such he was, though serpentine,
Waxed fat on praise and admiration,
Forgot his former lowly station.

Looked on his mate with mild disdain
As being somewhat soft of brain;
With favor viewed her not at all,
Because, poor thing, she still must crawl!
(Which needs no explanation here,
For we believe we’ve made it clear
That of these two only the Male
Contrived to walk upon his tail.)

The compliments which, left and right,
Were showered on him, spoiled him quite;
No longer friendly and benign,
He strode along with rigid spine,
Nor bent to pass the time of day
Though gently greeted on the way.
Himself he thought the world’s last wonder
All other beasts a foolish blunder,
And even Man he somewhat eyed
A bit obliquely in his pride.

One only thing, or rather two,
He lover with ardor all complete;
Yea, evermore his rapture grew
As he beheld his darling feet!
He bathed them in the coolest brooks,
Wrapped them in leaves against the heat;
He never wearied of the looks
Of those amazing little feet!
And every day, foul day or fair,
Most carefully did count his toes
To be quite certain they were there,
Two sets of five, in double rows.

Flood morning came and Mrs. Snake
Was early up and wide awake.
“Dear husband, rise,” she hissed, “the Ark
We must be on and in ere dark.”
But he, he only stretched and yawned,
As in his brain an idea dawned
That promised great publicity.
“Suppose, my dear, you go,” said he,
“Ahead, and wait on board for me.
Your rate of travel’s none too great.
You crawl along; I won’t be late.”

“True,” said his Madam, somewhat tartly,
“I travel as the good Lord made me;
And though I may not travel smartly,
My crawling never has delayed me.”
At which in somewhat of a huff,
She straightened out and rippled off.

Quite tardily our arose,
Sat fondly gazing at his toes,
And thought, “The last to catch the boat
I’ll be; arrive as one of note.
Perhaps its sailing I’ll delay
Almost as much as one whole day;
For certainly they wouldn’t dare
To sail away with me not there.”

Through all the bustle and commotion,
Of others hastening to the ocean,
He gayly spent his time in primping
And polishing his shiny scales,
And laughed to think of others limping
Instead of walking on their tails.

Long, long, he dillied, long, long he dallied,
And dilly-dalliers never yet
Have at the proper moment sallied
To where they were supposed to get.
At length he deemed the proper second
For his departure had appeared;
The fame of being latest beckoned;
For conquest he felt fully geared.

But even as he straightly rose,
And lightly turned upon his toes,
The quiet skies above him darkened.
A panic seized him as he harkened
To thunder rolling long and loud.
Foreboding filled his frame, and dread,
As, glancing up, he saw a cloud
About to spill its contents on his head!
He fled in fright; away he scurried;
From that disturbing spot he hurried.
Yet ever as he onward sped
That cloud still threatened overhead.

At last, at last, he nears the Ark;
‘Tis just a little ways away!
Its lights are gleaming in the dark,
It rocks with laughter loud and gay.
“Oh, let me reach it,” gasps our hero;
“Though fame and fortune be as zero,
Though none my praises sing aloud,
O Heaven, spare me from that cloud!”

What irony of fate is this?
What bitter fare is his to eat?
Why does our hero write and hiss?
Something has tangled up his feet.
A little plant, a sickly bush,
Has grappled with those lovely toes;
Though he may flounder, shove, and push,
No further on our hero goes.
The awful cloud above him tips
And pours its mighty torrents down.
One last look and the captive slips
Away within their depths to drown.
Undone by what he loved the most
He gently renders up the ghost.

Long may his mate stand at the rail,
With anxious eye explore the dark;
Will never walk upon the Ark.