Poems by Beatrice M. Murphy (1908-1992)

Originally published in "The Rocks Cry Out," Broadside Press, 1969

To Any Negro Youth
Pledge of Allegiance
Disclaimer
Even Among Thieves
We Are Not Alone

 

TO ANY NEGRO YOUTH

I am the Uncle Tom
At whom you scoff and sneer.
I believe in America;
In God; in Truth;
In the fundamental decency
Of humanity;
Even in wild, undisciplined
Youth like you.

You say my time is passed.
Now I should step aside
And let you lead the way. WHERE?
To shipwreck on the sea of violence?
To death upon the sword of hate?

I am not loath to relinquish;
For I am weary and battle scarred.
I have fought many wars in my time—
Not with your weapons, surely,
But with mine. And I won what
You would call minor victories.
Not until you live more years and
Acquire deeper wisdom will you know
They paved and pointed the way
You are now impatient to go.
Scoff if you will, but my blood
Colored the road you want to travel;
And before I pass the torch to you
There's something I MUST say:

If you are going to speak for ME
First, Cleanse your mouth.
Spouting foul and four letter words
Over and over and over
Denotes not strength, but a drought
In your vocabulary.

If you are going to lead MY PEOPLE
Make sure to be the kind of leader
Who leads with dignity today
Toward a proud and better tomorrow;
Not one who dares not look behind
At wreckage left along the way—
Human wreckage that will haunt
Your future victories.

If you are going to fight MY battles,
Then remember well His words.
For though you feel you must deny Him
His voice still echoes down the wind
sreaming to be heard:

"HE WHO LIVES BY THE SWORD
MUST PERISH BY THAT SWORD."

 

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

I will walk all day with you
Down the road to freedom.
I will sing the songs of victory,
And chant the hymns of pain.
I will give my paltry widow's mite
To help my people obtain
The debt America owes them.

I will bare my body to the bullwhip
And accept whatever fate
Awaits the black man in his fight
For equality and freedom.
I will do anything in the world
You ask of me — but one:

I WILL NOT FILL MY LIFE WITH HATE.

 

DISCLAIMER

Mine is no Southern tradition.
I have never seen cotton fields
Gleaming whitely in the sun;
Or the look on the face of a Negro
In a frantic, desperate run
Before a frenzied mob.
I have never known the necessity
Of saying "Mr." to a man
Who wouldn't say "Mrs." to me.

All I know of the South
Is what I've been told;
And the telling has filled
My veins with brackish hate
And made my blood run cold.

Mine is no Southern tradition.
There is no secret yearning
Welling up in me to go back
To Dixie and live amid the smell
Of magnolias — magnolias
Mixed with blood.
I'd rather live in Hell!

 

EVEN AMONG THIEVES

I could forgive you
If you say you hate us;
That the sight of black skin
Fills you with revulsion;—
I could even respect you
For your honesty.

But when you come
Dragging your Trojan horse
Of Friendship
With its slimy core of deceit
Murmuring platitudes about
The Negro being happier
Among his own;
I hate you for your perfidy.

Even among thieves
Honor is respected.

 

WE ARE NOT ALONE

Mama! Mama! Tell me. What's happening?
Son, someone just threw a stone
Through the window of Jake's house.
But Why, Mother, Why?
Because he was a Jew; and they hated him.
I thought they only hated
Black people like us.
No, other people suffer for their
Race or religion
Just as we do. You see,
Even in our persecutions
We are not alone.

Copyright © Beatrice M. Murphy, 1969, all rights reserverd.


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