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The Creation by James Weldon Johnson

This week we have been contemplating the ways that our origin stories in Genesis have impacted our relationship with God and each other. During my reflections, The Creation by James Weldon Johnson has been replaying in my mind. A poet interested in the African American folk genre, Johnson used his writing to persuade people of differing ideologies to work together. In 1900, Johnson wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing" to honor President Lincoln's birthday. By 1920, he became the national organizer for the NAACP. The Creation can be found in Johnson's book, God's Trombones, from 1927.


I'm sharing the poem with you now in case it serves as inspiration along your journey. If you're interested, there are many dramatic readings of the poem on YouTube.


The Creation


And God stepped out on space,

And he looked around and said:

I’m lonely—

I’ll make me a world.


And far as the eye of God could see

Darkness covered everything,

Blacker than a hundred midnights

Down in a cypress swamp.


Then God smiled,

And the light broke,

And the darkness rolled up on one side,

And the light stood shining on the other,

And God said: That’s good!


Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,

And God rolled the light around in his hands

Until he made the sun;

And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.

And the light that was left from making the sun

God gathered it up in a shining ball

And flung it against the darkness,

Spangling the night with the moon and stars.

Then down between

The darkness and the light

He hurled the world;

And God said: That’s good!


Then God himself stepped down—

And the sun was on his right hand,

And the moon was on his left;

The stars were clustered about his head,

And the earth was under his feet.

And God walked, and where he trod

His footsteps hollowed the valleys out

And bulged the mountains up.


Then he stopped and looked and saw

That the earth was hot and barren.

So God stepped over to the edge of the world

And he spat out the seven seas—

He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed—

He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled—

And the waters above the earth came down,

The cooling waters came down.


Then the green grass sprouted,

And the little red flowers blossomed,

The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,

And the oak spread out his arms,

The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,

And the rivers ran down to the sea;

And God smiled again, 

And the rainbow appeared,

And curled itself around his shoulder.


Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand

Over the sea and over the land,

And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!

And quicker than God could drop his hand,

Fishes and fowls

And beasts and birds

Swam the rivers and the seas,

Roamed the forests and the woods,

And split the air with their wings.

And God said: That’s good!


Then God walked around,

And God looked around

On all that he had made.

He looked at his sun, 

And he looked at his moon,

And he looked at his little stars;

He looked on his world

With all its living things,

And God said: I’m lonely still.


Then God sat down—

On the side of a hill where he could think;

By a deep, wide river he sat down;

With his head in his hands,

God thought and thought,

Till he thought:

I’ll make me a man!


Up from the bed of the river

God scooped the clay;

And by the bank of the river

He kneeled him down;

And there the great God Almighty

Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky, 

Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,

Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;

This great God,

Like a mammy bending over her baby,

Kneeled down in the dust

Toiling over a lump of clay

Till he shaped it in is his own image;


Then into it he blew the breath of life,

And man became a living soul.

Amen.     

Amen.

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