THE SCARLET WOMAN
by: Fenton Johnson (1888-1958)
- NCE I was
good like the Virgin Mary and the Minister's wife.
My father worked for Mr. Pullman and white people's tips; but
he died two days after his insurance expired.
I had nothing, so I had to go to work.
All the stock I had was a white girl's education and a face that
enchanted the men of both races.
Starvation danced with me.
So when Big Lizzie, who kept a house for white men, came to me
with tales of fortune that I could reap from the sale of my virtue
I bowed my head to Vice.
Now I can drink more gin than any man for miles around.
Gin is better than all the water in Lethe.
POEMS BY FENTON JOHNSON
"The Scarlet Woman" is
reprinted from The Book of American Negro Poetry. Ed.
James Weldon Johnson. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922.