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About this poet

Alice Dunbar Nelson was born on July 19, 1875. She was an activist for civil rights as well as a poet, journalist, short-story writer, and playwright. Her works include Violets and Other Tales (Monthly Review, 1895) and The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1899). She died on September 18, 1935.

I Sit and Sew

I sit and sew—a useless task it seems,
My hands grown tired, my head weighed down with dreams—
The panoply of war, the martial tred of men,
Grim-faced, stern-eyed, gazing beyond the ken
Of lesser souls, whose eyes have not seen Death
Nor learned to hold their lives but as a breath—
But—I must sit and sew.

I sit and sew—my heart aches with desire—
That pageant terrible, that fiercely pouring fire
On wasted fields, and writhing grotesque things
Once men. My soul in pity flings
Appealing cries, yearning only to go
There in that holocaust of hell, those fields of woe—
But—I must sit and sew.

The little useless seam, the idle patch;
Why dream I here beneath my homely thatch,
When there they lie in sodden mud and rain,
Pitifully calling me, the quick ones and the slain?
You need, me, Christ! It is no roseate seam
That beckons me—this pretty futile seam,
It stifles me—God, must I sit and sew?

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Alice Dunbar Nelson was born on July 19, 1875. She was an activist for civil rights as well as a poet, journalist, short-story writer, and playwright. Her works include Violets and Other Tales (Monthly Review, 1895) and The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1899). She died on September 18, 1935.

by this poet

poem

I had no thought of violets of late,      
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.       
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,          
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;

poem

Orange gleams athwart a crimson soul
Lambent flames; purple passion lurks
In your dusk eyes.
Red mouth; flower soft,
Your soul leaps up—and flashes
Star-like, white, flame-hot.
Curving arms, encircling a world of love,
You! Stirring the depths of passionate desire!

poem

O white little lights at Carney’s Point,
      You shine so clear o’er the Delaware;
When the moon rides high in the silver sky,
      Then you gleam, white gems on the Delaware.
Diamond circlet on a full white throat,
      You laugh your rays on a questioning boat;
Is it peace you