by Fenton Johnson
I am tired of work; I am tired of building up somebody else’s civilization.
Let us take a rest, M’Lissy Jane.
I will go down to the Last Chance Saloon, drink a gallon or two of gin, shoot a game or two of dice and sleep the rest of the night on one of Mike’s barrels.
You will let the old shanty go to rot, the white people’s clothes turn to dust, and the Calvary Baptist Church sink to the bottomless pit.
You will spend your days forgetting you married me and your nights hunting the warm gin Mike serves the ladies in the rear of the Last Chance Saloon.
Throw the children into the river; civilization has given us too many. It is better to die than it is to grow up and find out that you are colored.
Pluck the stars out of the heavens. The stars mark our destiny. The stars marked my destiny.
I am tired of civilization.
From Others magazine (January 1919). The poem was also anthologized in Others for 1919: An Anthology of the New Verse (Nicholas L. Brown, 1920) and James Weldon Johnson’s 1922 anthology The Book of American Negro Poetry.