Poems by James E. McCall

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.


Good-night, Little Pal

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)
3/5/32

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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.

Winter in St. Antoine by James McCall
(In The Detroit Saturday Night)

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.

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Jo Mendi was a famous chimpanzee at the Detroit Zoo.

You can read more about McCall in this post – James Edward McCall, Poet and Publisher.

“Good-bye Jim” by James Whitcomb Riley

I have been thinking about this poem often lately, don’t know why.  I have the book that used to belong to my uncle Henry and before him, to my grandparents.  I remember reading it growing up.  My husband is called  Jim and I sometimes say  “Good bye Jim, take care of yourself!” when he’s leaving.  I copied this from here, although I could have scanned it in.

“Good-bye Jim” 
by James Whitcomb Riley

Old man never had much to say-
‘Ceptin’ to Jim,-
And Jim was the wildest boy he had-
And the old man jes’ wrapped up in him!
Never heerd him speak but once
Er twice in my life, and first time was
When the army broke out, and Jim he went,
The old man backin’ him, fer three months;

And all ‘at I heerd the old man say
Was, jes’ as we turned to start away,
“Well, good-bye Jim:
Take keer of yourse’f!”
‘Peered-like, he was more satisfied
Jes’ lookin’ at Jim
And likin’ him all to hisse’f-like, see?
‘Cause he was jes’ wrapped up in him!
And over and over I mind the day
The old man come and stood round in the way
While we was drillin’, a-watchin’ Jim-
And down at the depot a-heerin’ him say,
“Well, good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse’f!”
Never was nothin’ about the farm
Disting’ished Jim;
Neighbors all ust to wonder why
The old man ‘peared wrapped up in him:
But when Cap. Biggler he writ back
‘At Jim was the bravest boy we had
In the whole dern rigiment, white er black,
And his fightin’ good as his farmin’ bad-
‘At he had led, with a bullet clean
Bored through his thigh, and carried the flag
Through the bloodiest battle you ever seen,-
The old man wound up a letter to him
“At Cap. Read to us, ‘at said: “Tell Jim
Good-bye,
And take keer of hisse’f.”
Jim come home jes’ long enough
To take the whim
“At he’d like to go back in the calvery-
And the old man jes’ wrapped up in him!
Jim ‘lowed’ at he ‘d had sich luck afore,
Guessed he ‘d tackle her three years more.
And the old man give him a colt he ‘d raised,
And follered him over to Camp Ben Wade,
And laid around fer a week er so,
Watchin’ Jim on dress-parade-
Tel finally he rid away,
And last we heerd was the old man say,-
“Well, good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse’f!”
Tuk the papers, the old man did,
A-watchin’ fer Jim-
Fully believin he ‘d make his mark
Some way-jes’ wrapped up in him!-
And many a time the word ‘u’d’ come
‘At stirred him up like th e tap of a drum-
At Petersburg, fer instunce, where
Jim rid right into their cannons there,
And tuk ’em, and p’inted ’em t’ other way,
And socked it home to the boys in gray,
As they scooted fer timber, and on and on-
Jim a lieutenant and one arm gone,
And the old man’s words in his mind all day,-
“Well good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse’f!”
Think of a private, now, perhaps,
We’ll say like Jim,
‘At ‘s clumb clean up to the shoulder-straps-
And the old man jes’ wrapped up in him!
Think of him- with the war plum’ through,
And the glorious old Red-White-and-Blue
A-laughin’ the news down over Jim,
And the old man, bendin’ over him-
The surgeon turnin’ away with tears
‘At hadn’t leaked fer years and years,
As the hand of the dyin’ boy clung to
His father’s, the old voice in his ears,-
“Well, good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse’f!”
THE END