Melvin B. Tolson


An Ex-Judge at the Bar

Bartender, make it straight and make it two —
One for the you in me and the me in you.
Now let us put our heads together: one
Is half enough for malice, sense, or fun.

I know, Bartender, yes, I know when the Law
Should wag its tail or rip with fang and claw.
When Pilate washed his hands, that neat event
Set for us judges a Caesarean precedent.

What I shall tell you now, as man is man,
You’ ll find in neither Bible nor Koran.
It happened after my return from France
At the bar in Tony’ s Lady of Romance.

The Idols of the Tribe


The veldt men pray
Carved wood and stone
And tear their flesh
To vein and bone.

The idols scowl
In the brassy sun
Unmindful of
Appeasement done.

Yea, warriors cringe,
Whose tauntings dare
The regnant brute
In regal lair.

As tribal gods
The brave confound,
They bruise their heads
Against the ground.

Kennings of death
Encyst the square,
The mourners drool
And children scare.

The Shipwright

Down in the shipyard, day and night,
The Galahads of the dock,
Hard as the sinews of basin rock,
Build an ocean cosmopolite.

The rivets stab and the hammers bite
Into the beams and plates of steel
Of the Diesel heart and the belly keel.

The workers of the world strike catholic notes
On woods and irons, wring from brassy throats
Epics of industry.