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 sweet joy and grace.
And if the sign may not be fully read,
If I can comprehend but not control,
I need not gloom my days with futile dread,
Because I see a part and not the whole.
Contemplating the strange, I’m comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.

One Year After

I
Not once in all our days of poignant love,
Did I a single instant give to thee
My undivided being wholly free.
Not all thy potent passion could remove
The barrier that loomed between to prove
The full supreme surrendering of me.
Oh, I was beaten, helpless utterly
Against the shadow-fact with which I strove.
For when a cruel power forced me to face
The truth which poisoned our illicit wine,
That even I was faithless to my race
Bleeding beneath the iron hand of thine,
Our union seemed a monstrous thing and base!
I was an outcast from thy world and mine.

II
Adventure-seasoned and storm-buffeted,
I shun all signs of anchorage, because
The zest of life exceeds the bound of laws.
New gales of tropic fury round my head
Break lashing me through hours of soulful dread;
But when the terror thins and, spent, withdraws,
Leaving me wondering awhile, I pause—
But soon again the risky ways I tread!
No rigid road for me, no peace, no rest,
While molten elements run through my blood;
And beauty-burning bodies manifest
Their warm, heart-melting motions to be wooed;
And passion boldly rising in my breast,
Like rivers of the Spring, lets loose its flood.

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!

Dawn in New York

The Dawn!   The Dawn!   The crimson-tinted,
comes
Out of the low still skies, over the hills,
Manhattan’s roofs and spires and cheerless domes!
The Dawn! My spirit to its spirit thrills.
Almost the mighty city is asleep,
No pushing crowd, no tramping, tramping feet.
But here and there a few cars groaning creep
Along, above, and underneath the street,
Bearing their strangely-ghostly burdens by,
The women and the men of garish nights,
Their eyes wine-weakened and their clothes awry,
Grotesques beneath the strong electric lights.
The shadows wane.   The Dawn comes to New
York.
And I go darkly-rebel to my work.