By Helene Johnson

I want to worship God,
And so I go to church. There is a church two blocks down
Between the baker’s and the new hospital.
I enter and kneel down on the prayer mat to pray.
But no prayer comes. I am not good. I am a sinner.
I am alone in the House of God and cannot think of God.
It is so strange in here, and close and dead.
I will not stay any longer. I will not wait any longer for

I draw on my glove and rush out into the street.
There! I am free. Here is Beauty, cold, white, clean.
Soft snow wets my cheeks. I want to worship God.
Is not this devotion? Is not this worship?
I worship God’s gift, Nature:
Do I not thus worship Him—the Giver?

I pass a beggar woman and empty my purse in her lap.
Her eyes grow bright. There is a sort of worship in her
“Beautiful gold—smooth, warm, beautiful.”
She polishes the money with her breath. I leave her there
Worshipping my gift, gold, with no thought for me, the

The trees are like white holyroods, wind-riven,
As I turn and blindly make my way back to the church.
I want to worship God.

“Worship” by Helene Johnson. Reprinted from This Waiting for Love: Helene Johnson, Poet of the Harlem Renaissance. Copyright 2000 © by the University of Massachusetts Press.