The first poem was written on the death of Howard Graham, my grandparent’s youngest son. He died in 1932 from complications of scarlet fever. You can read more about it here My Grandmother’s Loss. James McCall and my grandmother Fannie were first cousins, their mothers were sisters.
Little pal, do you know how we miss you,
Since you journeyed into the West?
Once again in dreams we kid you,
And press you close to our breast.
Your hair was bright as the sunshine,
Your voice like the music of birds,
Your eyes were blue as the heavens,
And your smile too precious for words.
Goodnight, little pal; sleep sweetly
Till the dawn of the morning light;
May the angels of God watch o’er you–
Good-night, little pal, good-night.
In memory of Howard A. Graham,
By his pal, J.E.M.(James Edward McCall)
The second poem is transcribed from the page of poems in my grandmother’s scrapbook. She pasted one thing over another, sometimes obscuring the original items on the page. The clippings are browning and fragile.
In St. Antoine the snow and sleet
Whiten and glaze the drab old street
And make the snow-clad houses gleam
Like crystal castles in a dream.
There, many swarthy people dwell;
To some, ’tis heaven, to others, hell!
To me the street seems like a movie stage
Where Negro play and stars engage.
They laugh and love and dance and sing
While waiting the return of spring.
Some drown their heart-aches deep
In winter time on St. Antoine.
There, on the gutters frozen brink
A dope-fiend lies, with eyes that blink
And from a neighboring cabaret
come sounds of song and music gay.
At windows, tapping, here and there,
Sit dusky maidens young and fair,
With painted cheeks and brazen eyes.
and silk clad legs crossed to the thigh
Upon the icy pavements wide,
Gay brown-faced children laugh and slide
While tawny men in shiny cars
Drive up and down the street like czars.
Into a church across the way
There goes a bridal party gay.
While down the street like a prairie-fire,
Dash a bandit car and a cruising flyer.
Around the corner whirls a truck,
An old coal-peddler’s horse is struck;
The horse falls on the frozen ground,
The dark blood spouting from its wound.
A motley crowd runs to the scene;
A woman old, from shoulders lean,
Unwraps a quilt her hands have pieced
And spreads it o’er the shivering beast.
Among the swarthy folk who pass
Among the slippery street of glass,
Are some in furs and some in rags;
Lovely women, wretched hags,
White-haired migrants from the South;
Some wrapped in blankets, pipes in mouth;
Some smile while others seem to shiver,
As though they long for Swanee River;
But though they dream with tear wet eyes
Of cotton-fields and sunny skies.
They much prefer the heaven and hell
On St Antoine, where free men dwell.