Claude McKay

A Memory of June – Claude McKay

A Memory of June – Claude McKay

When June comes dancing o’er the death of May, With scarlet roses tinting her green breast, And mating thrushes ushering in her day, And Earth on tiptoe for her golden guest, I always see the evening when we met– The first of June baptized in tender rain– And walked home through th... »

The Snow Fairy By Claude Mckay

The Snow Fairy By Claude Mckay

The Snow Fairy I Throughout the afternoon I watched them there, Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky, Whirling fantastic in the misty air, Contending fierce for space supremacy. And they flew down a mightier force at night, As though in heaven there was revolt and riot, And they, frail things ... »

In Bondage By Claude Mckay

In Bondage By Claude Mckay

In Bondage I would be wandering in distant fields Where man, and bird, and beast, lives leisurely, And the old earth is kind, and ever yields Her goodly gifts to all her children free; Where life is fairer, lighter, less demanding, And boys and girls have time and space for play Before they come to ... »

A Memory Of June By Claude Mckay

A Memory Of June By Claude Mckay

A Memory Of June When June comes dancing o’er the death of May, With scarlet roses tinting her green breast, And mating thrushes ushering in her day, And Earth on tiptoe for her golden guest, I always see the evening when we met– The first of June baptized in tender rain– And walke... »

Song Of The Moon By Claude Mckay

Song Of The Moon By Claude Mckay

Song Of The Moon The moonlight breaks upon the city’s domes, And falls along cemented steel and stone, Upon the grayness of a million homes, Lugubrious in unchanging monotone. Upon the clothes behind the tenement, That hang like ghosts suspended from the lines, Linking each flat to each indiff... »

Flower Of Love By Claude Mckay

Flower Of Love By Claude Mckay

Flower Of Love The perfume of your body dulls my sense. I want nor wine nor weed; your breath alone Suffices. In this moment rare and tense I worship at your breast. The flower is blown, The saffron petals tempt my amorous mouth, The yellow heart is radiant now with dew Soft-scented, redolent of my ... »

To A Poet By Claude Mckay

To A Poet By Claude Mckay

To A Poet There is a lovely noise about your name, Above the shoutings of the city clear, More than a moment’s merriment, whose claim Will greater grow with every mellowed year. The people will not bear you down the street, Dancing to the strong rhythm of your words, The modern kings will thro... »

On A Primitive Canoe By Claude Mckay

On A Primitive Canoe By Claude Mckay

On A Primitive Canoe Here, passing lonely down this quiet lane, Before a mud-splashed window long I pause To gaze and gaze, while through my active brain Still thoughts are stirred to wakefulness; because Long, long ago in a dim unknown land, A massive forest-tree, ax-felled, adze-hewn, Was deftly d... »

America By Claude Mckay

America By Claude Mckay

America Although she feeds me bread of bitterness, And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth, Stealing my breath of life, I will confess I love this cultured hell that tests my youth! Her vigor flows like tides into my blood, Giving me strength erect against her hate. Her bigness sweeps my be... »

The Plateau By Claude Mckay

The Plateau By Claude Mckay

The Plateau It was the silver, heart-enveloping view Of the mysterious sea-line far away, Seen only on a gleaming gold-white day, That made it dear and beautiful to you. And Laura loved it for the little hill, Where the quartz sparkled fire, barren and dun, Whence in the shadow of the dying sun, She... »

Jasmines – Claude Mckay By Claude Mckay

Jasmines – Claude Mckay By Claude Mckay

Your scent is in the room. Swiftly it overwhelms and conquers me! Jasmines, night jasmines, perfect of perfume, Heavy with dew before the dawn of day! Your face was in the mirror. I could see You smile and vanish suddenly away, Leaving behind the vestige of a tear. Sad suffering face, from parting g... »

Winter In The Country By Claude Mckay

Winter In The Country By Claude Mckay

Winter In The Country Sweet life! how lovely to be here And feel the soft sea-laden breeze Strike my flushed face, the spruce’s fair Free limbs to see, the lesser trees’ Bare hands to touch, the sparrow’s cheep To heed, and watch his nimble flight Above the short brown grass asleep... »

Tormented By Claude Mckay

Tormented By Claude Mckay

Tormented I will not reason, wrestle here with you, Though you pursue and worry me about; As well put forth my swarthy arm to stop The wild wind howling, darkly mad without. The night is yours for revels; day will light. I will not fight you, bold and tigerish, For I am weak, while you are gaining s... »

Russian Cathedral By Claude Mckay

Russian Cathedral By Claude Mckay

Russian Cathedral Bow down my soul in worship very low And in the holy silences be lost. Bow down before the marble man of woe, Bow down before the singing angel host. What jewelled glory fills my spirit’s eye, What golden grandeur moves the depths of me! The soaring arches lift me up on high ... »

Exhortation Summer 1919 By Claude Mckay

Exhortation Summer 1919 By Claude Mckay

Exhortation Summer 1919 Through the pregnant universe rumbles life’s terrific thunder, And Earth’s bowels quake with terror; strange and terrible storms break, Lightning-torches flame the heavens, kindling souls of men, thereunder: Africa! long ages sleeping, O my motherland, awake! In t... »

Thirst By Claude Mckay

Thirst By Claude Mckay

Thirst My spirit wails for water, water now! My tongue is aching dry, my throat is hot For water, fresh rain shaken from a bough, Or dawn dews heavy in some leafy spot. My hungry body’s burning for a swim In sunlit water where the air is cool, As in Trout Valley where upon a limb The golden fi... »

North And South By Claude Mckay

North And South By Claude Mckay

North And South O sweet are tropic lands for waking dreams! There time and life move lazily along. There by the banks of blue-and-silver streams Grass-sheltered crickets chirp incessant song, Gay-colored lizards loll all through the day, Their tongues outstretched for careless little flies, And swar... »

Alfonso, Dressing To Wait At Table By Claude Mckay

Alfonso, Dressing To Wait At Table By Claude Mckay

Alfonso, Dressing To Wait At Table Alfonso is a handsome bronze-hued lad Of subtly-changing and surprising parts; His moods are storms that frighten and make glad, His eyes were made to capture women’s hearts. Down in the glory-hole Alfonso sings An olden song of wine and clinking glasses And ... »

The Lynching By Claude Mckay

The Lynching By Claude Mckay

The Lynching His Spirit in smoke ascended to high heaven. His father, by the cruelest way of pain, Had bidden him to his bosom once again; The awful sin remained still unforgiven. All night a bright and solitary star (Perchance the one that ever guided him, Yet gave him up at last to Fate’s wi... »

If We Must Die By Claude Mckay

If We Must Die By Claude Mckay

If We Must Die If we must die, let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, Making their mock at our accursèd lot. If we must die, O let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then even the monsters we defy S... »

A Prayer By Claude Mckay

A Prayer By Claude Mckay

A Prayer ‘Mid the discordant noises of the day I hear thee calling; I stumble as I fare along Earth’s way; keep me from falling. Mine eyes are open but they cannot see for gloom of night: I can no more than lift my heart to thee for inward light. The wild and fiery passion of my youth co... »

When I Have Passed Away By Claude Mckay

When I Have Passed Away By Claude Mckay

When I Have Passed Away When I have passed away and am forgotten, And no one living can recall my face, When under alien sod my bones lie rotten With not a tree or stone to mark the place; Perchance a pensive youth, with passion burning, For olden verse that smacks of love and wine, The musty pages ... »

Romance By Claude Mckay

Romance By Claude Mckay

Romance To clasp you now and feel your head close-pressed, Scented and warm against my beating breast; To whisper soft and quivering your name, And drink the passion burning in your frame; To lie at full length, taut, with cheek to cheek, And tease your mouth with kisses till you speak Love words, m... »

Flame-Heart By Claude Mckay

Flame-Heart By Claude Mckay

Flame-Heart So much have I forgotten in ten years, So much in ten brief years! I have forgot What time the purple apples come to juice, And what month brings the shy forget-me-not. I have forgot the special, startling season Of the pimento’s flowering and fruiting; What time of year the ground... »

The Wild Goat By Claude Mckay

The Wild Goat By Claude Mckay

The Wild Goat O you would clothe me in silken frocks And house me from the cold, And bind with bright bands my glossy locks, And buy me chains of gold; And give me–meekly to do my will– The hapless sons of men:– But the wild goat bounding on the barren hill Droops in the grassy pen... »

O Word I Love To Sing By Claude Mckay

O Word I Love To Sing By Claude Mckay

O Word I Love To Sing O word I love to sing! thou art too tender For all the passions agitating me; For all my bitterness thou art too tender, I cannot pour my red soul into thee. O haunting melody! thou art too slender, Too fragile like a globe of crystal glass; For all my stormy thoughts thou art ... »

After The Winter By Claude Mckay

After The Winter By Claude Mckay

After The Winter Some day, when trees have shed their leaves And against the morning’s white The shivering birds beneath the eaves Have sheltered for the night, We’ll turn our faces southward, love, Toward the summer isle Where bamboos spire to shafted grove And wide-mouthed orchids smil... »

The Harlem Dancer By Claude Mckay

The Harlem Dancer By Claude Mckay

The Harlem Dancer Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway; Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes Blown by black players upon a picnic day. She sang and danced on gracefully and calm, The light gauze hanging loose about her form; To me... »

I Know My Soul By Claude Mckay

I Know My Soul By Claude Mckay

I Know My Soul I plucked my soul out of its secret place, And held it to the mirror of my eye, To see it like a star against the sky, A twitching body quivering in space, A spark of passion shining on my face. And I explored it to determine why This awful key to my infinity Conspires to rob me of sw... »

Wild May By Claude Mckay

Wild May By Claude Mckay

Wild May Aleta mentions in her tender letters, Among a chain of quaint and touching things, That you are feeble, weighted down with fetters, And given to strange deeds and mutterings. No longer without trace or thought of fear, Do you leap to and ride the rebel roan; But have become the victim of gr... »

Spring In New Hampshire By Claude Mckay

Spring In New Hampshire By Claude Mckay

Spring In New Hampshire Too green the springing April grass, Too blue the silver-speckled sky, For me to linger here, alas, While happy winds go laughing by, Wasting the golden hours indoors, Washing windows and scrubbing floors. Too wonderful the April night, Too faintly sweet the first May flowers... »

Enslaved By Claude Mckay

Enslaved By Claude Mckay

Enslaved Oh when I think of my long-suffering race, For weary centuries despised, oppressed, Enslaved and lynched, denied a human place In the great life line of the Christian West; And in the Black Land disinherited, Robbed in the ancient country of its birth, My heart grows sick with hate, becomes... »

The White House By Claude Mckay

The White House By Claude Mckay

The White House Your door is shut against my tightened face, And I am sharp as steel with discontent; But I possess the courage and the grace To bear my anger proudly and unbent. The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet, A chafing savage, down the decent street; And passion rends my vitals as I... »

Morning Joy By Claude Mckay

Morning Joy By Claude Mckay

Morning Joy At night the wide and level stretch of wold, Which at high noon had basked in quiet gold, Far as the eye could see was ghostly white; Dark was the night save for the snow’s weird light. I drew the shades far down, crept into bed; Hearing the cold wind moaning overhead Through the s... »

Africa By Claude Mckay

Africa By Claude Mckay

Africa The sun sought thy dim bed and brought forth light, The sciences were sucklings at thy breast; When all the world was young in pregnant night Thy slaves toiled at thy monumental best. Thou ancient treasure-land, thou modern prize, New peoples marvel at thy pyramids! The years roll on, thy sph... »

The Easter Flower By Claude Mckay

The Easter Flower By Claude Mckay

The Easter Flower Far from this foreign Easter damp and chilly My soul steals to a pear-shaped plot of ground, Where gleamed the lilac-tinted Easter lily Soft-scented in the air for yards around; Alone, without a hint of guardian leaf! Just like a fragile bell of silver rime, It burst the tomb for f... »

I Shall Return By Claude Mckay

I Shall Return By Claude Mckay

I Shall Return I shall return again; I shall return To laugh and love and watch with wonder-eyes At golden noon the forest fires burn, Wafting their blue-black smoke to sapphire skies. I shall return to loiter by the streams That bathe the brown blades of the bending grasses, And realize once more m... »

White Houses By Claude Mckay

White Houses By Claude Mckay

White Houses Your door is shut against my tightened face, And I am sharp as steel with discontent; But I possess the courage and the grace To bear my anger proudly and unbent. The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet, A chafing savage, down the decent street; And passion rends my vitals as I pa... »

Rest In Peace By Claude Mckay

Rest In Peace By Claude Mckay

Rest In Peace No more for you the city’s thorny ways, The ugly corners of the Negro belt; The miseries and pains of these harsh days By you will never, never again be felt. No more, if still you wander, will you meet With nights of unabating bitterness; They cannot reach you in your safe retre... »

Flirtation By Claude Mckay

Flirtation By Claude Mckay

Flirtation UPON thy purple mat thy body bare Is fine and limber like a tender tree. The motion of thy supple form is rare, Like a lithe panther lolling languidly, Toying and turning slowly in her lair. Oh, I would never ask for more of thee, Thou art so clean in passion and so fair. Enough! if thou ... »

The White House – Claude Mckay By Claude Mckay

The White House – Claude Mckay By Claude Mckay

Your door is shut against my tightened face, And I am sharp as steel with discontent; But I possess the courage and the grace To bear my anger proudly and unbent. The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet, A chafing savage, down the decent street; And passion rends my vitals as I pass, Where bol... »

Memorial By Claude Mckay

Memorial By Claude Mckay

Memorial Your body was a sacred cell always, A jewel that grew dull in garish light, An opal which beneath my wondering gaze Gleamed rarely, softly throbbing in the night. I touched your flesh with reverential hands, For you were sweet and timid like a flower That blossoms out of barren tropic sands... »

Baptism By Claude Mckay

Baptism By Claude Mckay

Baptism Into the furnace let me go alone; Stay you without in terror of the heat. I will go naked in–for thus ”tis sweet– Into the weird depths of the hottest zone. I will not quiver in the frailest bone, You will not note a flicker of defeat; My heart shall tremble not its fate to... »

The Night-Fire By Claude Mckay

The Night-Fire By Claude Mckay

The Night-Fire No engines shrieking rescue storm the night, And hose and hydrant cannot here avail; The flames laugh high and fling their challenging light, And clouds turn gray and black from silver-pale. The fire leaps out and licks the ancient walls, And the big building bends and twists and groa... »

Homing Swallows By Claude Mckay

Homing Swallows By Claude Mckay

Homing Swallows Swift swallows sailing from the Spanish main, O rain-birds racing merrily away From hill-tops parched with heat and sultry plain Of wilting plants and fainting flowers, say– When at the noon-hour from the chapel school The children dash and scamper down the dale, Scornful of te... »

When Dawn Comes To The City By Claude Mckay

When Dawn Comes To The City By Claude Mckay

When Dawn Comes To The City The tired cars go grumbling by, The moaning, groaning cars, And the old milk carts go rumbling by Under the same dull stars. Out of the tenements, cold as stone, Dark figures start for work; I watch them sadly shuffle on, ‘Tis dawn, dawn in New York. But I would be ... »

Polarity By Claude Mckay

Polarity By Claude Mckay

Polarity Nay, why reproach each other, be unkind, For there’s no plane on which we two may meet? Let’s both forgive, forget, for both were blind, And life is of a day, and time is fleet. And I am fire, swift to flame and burn, Melting with elements high overhead, While you are water in a... »

December, 1919 By Claude Mckay

December, 1919 By Claude Mckay

December, 1919 Last night I heard your voice, mother, The words you sang to me When I, a little barefoot boy, Knelt down against your knee. And tears gushed from my heart, mother, And passed beyond its wall, But though the fountain reached my throat The drops refused to fall. ‘Tis ten years si... »

Through Agony By Claude Mckay

Through Agony By Claude Mckay

Through Agony I All night, through the eternity of night, Pain was my potion though I could not feel. Deep in my humbled heart you ground your heel, Till I was reft of even my inner light, Till reason from my mind had taken flight, And all my world went whirling in a reel. And all my swarthy strengt... »

Memorial – Claude Mckay By Claude Mckay

Memorial – Claude Mckay By Claude Mckay

Your body was a sacred cell always, A jewel that grew dull in garish light, An opal which beneath my wondering gaze Gleamed rarely, softly throbbing in the night. I touched your flesh with reverential hands, For you were sweet and timid like a flower That blossoms out of barren tropic sands, Sheddin... »

Adolescence By Claude Mckay

Adolescence By Claude Mckay

Adolescence There was a time when in late afternoon The four-o’clocks would fold up at day’s close Pink-white in prayer, and ‘neath the floating moon I lay with them in calm and sweet repose. And in the open spaces I could sleep, Half-naked to the shining worlds above; Peace came w... »

The City’s Love By Claude Mckay

The City’s Love By Claude Mckay

The City’s Love For one brief golden moment rare like wine, The gracious city swept across the line; Oblivious of the color of my skin, Forgetting that I was an alien guest, She bent to me, my hostile heart to win, Caught me in passion to her pillowy breast; The great, proud city, seized with ... »

Home Thoughts By Claude Mckay

Home Thoughts By Claude Mckay

Home Thoughts Oh something just now must be happening there! That suddenly and quiveringly here, Amid the city’s noises, I must think Of mangoes leaning o’er the river’s brink, And dexterous Davie climbing high above, The gold fruits ebon-speckled to remove, And toss them quickly i... »

Two-An’-Six By Claude Mckay

Two-An’-Six By Claude Mckay

Two-An’-Six Merry voices chatterin’, Nimble feet dem patterin’, Big an’ little, faces gay, Happy day dis market day. Sateday, de marnin’ break, Soon, soon market-people wake; An’ de light shine from de moon While dem boy, wid pantaloon Roll up ober dem knee-pan, &... »

Poetry By Claude Mckay

Poetry By Claude Mckay

Poetry Sometimes I tremble like a storm-swept flower, And seek to hide my tortured soul from thee. Bowing my head in deep humility Before the silent thunder of thy power. Sometimes I flee before thy blazing light, As from the specter of pursuing death; Intimidated lest thy mighty breath, Windways, w... »

Courage By Claude Mckay

Courage By Claude Mckay

Courage O lonely heart so timid of approach, Like the shy tropic flower that shuts its lips To the faint touch of tender finger tips: What is your word? What question would you broach? Your lustrous-warm eyes are too sadly kind To mask the meaning of your dreamy tale, Your guarded life too exquisite... »

The Tropics In New York By Claude Mckay

The Tropics In New York By Claude Mckay

The Tropics In New York Bananas ripe and green, and ginger-root, Cocoa in pods and alligator pears, And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit, Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs, Set in the window, bringing memories Of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills, And dewy dawns, and mystical blue... »

My Mother By Claude Mckay

My Mother By Claude Mckay

My Mother I Reg wished me to go with him to the field, I paused because I did not want to go; But in her quiet way she made me yield Reluctantly, for she was breathing low. Her hand she slowly lifted from her lap And, smiling sadly in the old sweet way, She pointed to the nail where hung my cap. Her... »

Absence By Claude Mckay

Absence By Claude Mckay

Absence Your words dropped into my heart like pebbles into a pool, Rippling around my breast and leaving it melting cool. Your kisses fell sharp on my flesh like dawn-dews from the limb, Of a fruit-filled lemon tree when the day is young and dim. But a silence vasty-deep, oh deeper than all these ti... »

The Castaways By Claude Mckay

The Castaways By Claude Mckay

The Castaways The vivid grass with visible delight Springing triumphant from the pregnant earth, The butterflies, and sparrows in brief flight Chirping and dancing for the season’s birth, The dandelions and rare daffodils That touch the deep-stirred heart with hands of gold, The thrushes sendi... »

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