472: We Have Been Believers

472: We Have Been Believers

472: We Have Been Believers

We Have Been Believers
by Margaret Walker

We have been believers believing in the black gods of an
          old land, believing in the secrets of the seeress and the
          magic of the charmers and the power of the devil's evil
          ones. 
 
And in the white gods of a new land we have been believers
          believing in the mercy of the masters and the beauty of
          our brothers, believing in the conjure of the humble
          and the faithful and the pure. 
 
Neither the slavers' whip nor the lynchers' rope nor the
          bayonet could kill our black belief. In our hunger we
          beheld the welcome table and in our nakedness the
          glory of a long white robe. We have been believers in
          the new Jerusalem. 
 
We have been believers feeding greedy grinning gods, like a
          Moloch demanding our sons and our daughters our
          strength and our wills and our spirits of pain. We have
          been believers, silent and stolid and stubborn and
          strong. 
 
We have been believers yielding substance for the world.
          With our hands have we fed a people and out of our
          strength have they wrung the necessities of a nation.
          Our song has filled the twilight and our hope has
          heralded the dawn. 
 
Now we stand ready for the touch of one fiery iron, for the
          cleansing breath of many molten truths, that the eyes
          of the blind may see and the ears of the deaf may hear
          and the tongues of the people be filled with living fire. 
 
Where are our gods that they leave us asleep? Surely the
          priests and the preachers and the powers will hear.
          Surely now that our hands are empty and our hearts too
          full to pray they will understand. Surely the sires of
          the people will send us a sign. 
 
We have been believers believing in our burdens and our
          demigods too long. Now the needy no longer weep and
          pray; the longsuffering arise, and our fists bleed
          against the bars with a strange insistency.

"We Have Been Believers” from THIS IS MY CENTURY: NEW AND COLLECTED POEMS by Margaret Walker. Copyright © 2013 by Margaret Walker. Used by permission of the University of Georgia Press.