Verse > Anthologies > James Weldon Johnson, ed. > The Book of American Negro Poetry
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James Weldon Johnson, ed. (1871–1938).  The Book of American Negro Poetry.  1922.
 
The Scarlet Woman
 
Fenton Johnson
 
 
ONCE 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.        5
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.
 

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