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from clods of southern earth (1946) Editors’ Note: This 148-page collection was published in hardback and paperback editions in 1946 by Boni and Gaer in New York. It features an “appreciation” and introduction (reprinted on pages 3–8 of this book) by West, which focuses on what he calls the “other history” of the Mountain South, and a blurb from the novelist Henrietta Buckmaster. The noted artist Harold Price adds the cover illustration and drawings throughout the book. The poems are divided into three parts: “No Anger in a Dead Man,” “Folks A-Living,” and “No Lonesome Road.” The book is dedicated to Alva Taylor, West’s mentor at Vanderbilt University. Look Here, America I want to tell, America, About victory— About sharecroppers, tenants, Black men and Crackers. And you must listen And look And think deep . . . For tomorrow You must lift your head, America— Proud of yourself, Proud that a Georgia Cracker Can clasp the hand of a black man And say: “Brother!” 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 137 no lonesome road 138 Look here, America, Bend your head toward me And listen. Make your dreaming eyes to look For I have tales to tell And little pieces Of twisted life To show. . . . You must look, America, And listen And think deep. For even I, a Georgia Cracker— One of your own mongrels— Am grieved By looking At what I’ve seen . . . Miner’s Widow14 Take your pious prayers, You preachers of God! I’ll bury my man Under coal blacked sod. Killed him while a-slavin’ As you see him there; Jest another miner gone, Take away yore prayer! See the workers murdered, You yellow-streaked men; Shout of hell’s damnation And a poor man’s sin! Barney, loved leader, Murdered like a dog; Shot you in the back, boy, From behind a log. 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 138 selected poems 139 Barney, hated leader, Blood was on yore brow; Super’s gunmen got you An’ starve our younguns now. Kid’s a’cryin’, Barney, Cupboard’s cold and bare; Preachers come a-peddlin’ Thur tales about a prayer. Leave me here a-grievin’, You have done yore share; You preachers of the bosses, Take away yore prayer! Should I Have Said I said I would ask nothing of you especially love But you should love me only if you found no escape, if it filled you full to overflow On a pungent grey December night . . . What was it, then, we touched that night in the stillness Where a pulsating fog tantalized a sad-faced moon, When soft shadows of stars were in your eyes— we touched and heard, Like a low sob-moan from the throat of a dying wind-song in the tree tops— A broken song crying in the dark . . . Why, in such ineffable moments could I not say That asking nothing is just a way of wanting all— a tilted face 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 139 no lonesome road 140 with deep warm eyes a laugh, half pain, a word unsaid, and the ecstatic feel of touch of flesh and two white jasmines that are your breasts . . . Or should I have said, O my Love, you’ve come too late, For I have nothing left to give, or, how many times can your heart ache for an absent face? How many years can your love penetrate the mist and dark and leaden dusk? How long can you feel the touch of absent lips and hungry hands the cryptic pulse of responding love palpitating deep inside your slender self . . . Or should I have said my road is long I camp beside many more who follow it hungry as I, Asking nothing save the memory of a broken song to keep— a face a smile a meaning look From deep, warm eyes. 02.Poems.97-194/West 12/2/03, 11:49 AM 140 selected poems 141 And I Have Loved I have loved— The bigness Of everywhere . . . Of living. And the little things— The soft beauty Of a flower in bloom. And a blood-red sun Caressing the swollen breasts Of a pregnant spring earth . . . I have loved the mystery Of dark, somber rivers With little ripples gnawing At the red earth, And a splashing mountain stream Splitting its heart On jagged stones As it slips to the bosom Of the deep...


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