Subway Wind

Far down, down through the city’s great, gaunt gut
The gray train rushing bears the weary wind;
In the packed cars the fans the crowd’s breath cut,
Leaving the sick and heavy air behind.
And pale-cheeked children seek the upper door
To give their summer jackets to the breeze;
Their laugh is swallowed in the deafening roar
Of captive wind that moans for fields and seas;
Seas cooling warm where native schooners drift
Through sleepy waters, while gulls wheel and sweep,
Waiting for windy waves the keels to lift
Lightly among the islands of the deep;
Islands of lofty palm trees blooming white
That lend their perfume to the tropic sea,
Where fields lie idle in the dew drenched night,
And the Trades float above them fresh and free.

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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 me, thereunder:
Africa! Long ages sleeping, O my motherland,
            awake!

In the East the clouds glow crimson with the new
            dawn that is breaking,
And its golden glory fills the western skies.
O my brothers and my sisters, wake! Arise!
For the new birth rends the old earth and the
            very dead are waking,
Ghosts are turned flesh, throwing off the grave’s
            disguise,
And the foolish, even children, are made wise;
For the big earth groans in travail for the strong,
            new world in making─
O my brothers, dreaming for dim centuries,
Wake from sleeping; to the East turn, turn
            your eyes!

Oh the night is sweet for sleeping, but the shining
            day’s for working;
Sons of the seductive night, for your children’s
            children’s sake,
From the deep primeval forests where the crouching
            leopard’s lurking
Lift your heavy-lidded eyes, Ethiopia! Awake!

In the East the clouds glow crimson with the new
            dawn that is breaking,
And its golden glory fills the western skies.
O my brothers and my sisters, wake! Arise!
For the new birth rends the old earth and the
            very dead are waking,
Ghosts are turned flesh, throwing off the grave’s disguise,
And the foolish, even children, are made wise;
For the big earth groans in travail for the strong,
            new world in making─
O my brothers, dreaming for long centuries,
Wake from sleeping; to the East turn, turn
            your eyes!

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 she seemed a proudly-swaying palm
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls
Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the
            girls,
Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;
But looking at her falsely-smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.

Home Thoughts

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 in the tangled mass
Of wis-wis twisted round the guinea grass;
And Cyril coming through the bramble-track
A prize bunch of bananas on his back;
And Georgie─none could ever dive like him─
Throwing his scanty clothes off for a swim;
And schoolboys, from Bridge-tunnel going home,
Watching the waters downward dash and foam.
This is no daytime dream, there’s something in it,
Oh something’s happening there this very minute!