Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
A Hymn for the Lynchers
By Isidor Schneider
From “America—1919”

Streaking the midnight,
Parching the silence.
O the flames that are arrows,
Shaken in a golden quiver,        5
The flames….
O the flames that are sudden ripples
In an imprisoned river,
The flames….
O the flames that are screaming children        10
Danced in a slippery lap …
The flames….
O the wide-striding shadow of the flames,
The dark and stately smoke
That needs heaven        15
For a floor to die upon.
O burning Fire,
Tearing the face of the midnight,
Hissing into the ear of silence.
O red mouth        20
And yellow teeth
Of Fire.
I have seen you eat up trees and houses,
And fatten
Till your obese shadow covered the sky.        25
But men are your delicacy,
Men whose flesh is flavored with the blood of God.
You eat them with a hungry joy,
With flames flung upward,
As though with arrows        30
To spit the souls.
How you pant,
When you steal into a house,
And search
For a man.        35
We can yell louder than you—
Our shriek is leaner and longer.
We call for the touch of you to prickle our flesh,
Like insidious lewd fingers.
When the night grows over the houses        40
With broad black leaves,
When silence shuts,
And sounds are like grits
In a shell,
We come to you.        45
O snarling Fire!
Oh, curse, grovelling on the ground,
Where the sky hurls you!
Oh, we stand close around—
You, you are the god whose touch is death,        50
Who piteously asks for deaths.
Oh! oh! to embrace you—
To become Fire!
Always him whom we destroy
Death makes a god.        55
Our faces gleam—
We are cheeks of wet coral,
And our sweat is as hard as diamonds.
Our shouts spurt,
And our smiles        60
Are like nooses, that have caught our joy.
And we watch your feast,
O red mouth
With yellow teeth….
The skin puckers up from the flesh—        65
How your breath grows heavy!
The blood drops into your tongue.
The hiss is a snap of teeth—
Pain beats like a heart.
Pain is the heart,        70
And the blood of pain flows swiftly …
O Fire, grow dark!
Call the shadows to pick your teeth—
Lie back and rest!        75
Your shadow in the distance grows numb.
We are exhausted with too much joy.
The keenness of our pleasure has grown dull.
We are like lovers,
Nodding at last within the marriage bed,        80
Our drained eyes seeking the swelling breast of the night.
Heal for us the darkness and the silence.
Now we can talk of our pleasures—
Talk is like licking the lips….
Better than goading animals        85
Into crouched fear
Or strangled pain,
Better than beating with sticks,
Or prodding where pain breaks quickly,
Better than tearing at girl’s flesh,        90
And letting the fingers suck
At the bleeding maidenhood,
Better than all the terrible lusts!—
O green laughter of Herodias,
O leper-white feet of Astarte,        95
O self-embracing totem-poles!—
Better than all the terrible lusts
Is to give a man
To fire.

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