A Poem For Your Thoughts

Claude McKay: America

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A Poem For Your Thoughts




Davis Creach, Arts Editor

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Welcome back to another edition of A Poem For Your Thoughts! This week, we end the Harlem Rennaisance mini-series we’ve been doing on the column recently, and it most certainly is a great one to end on! Head down to poems and soak up some wisdom! Each edition will include two poems, the first being a featured piece written by a famous poet that will be analyzed and interpreted according to my point of view. Of course, everyone’s interpretation is different and valid, and the comment section will be open for any further discussion. The second piece is written by yours truly and will be open to complete interpretation and analysis. Go forth, enjoy, and as you read, remember: “It is not what you look at that matters, it is what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

Poem OneAmerica by Claude McKay

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 being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Thoughts: Sinking his never-ending conflict between disdain and gratitude to his country, Claude McKay points out the many flaws of America while still conceding that he is incredibly blessed to be in this free nation. It is incredibly relatable, especially at a politically and socially divisive time such as this. The speaker describes the nation as a tiger who is trying to swallow him whole and he goes on to describe his hatred of the “cultured hell” and “hate” of America. At the beginning of the poem there is a clear tone of anger and resentment that seeps out of the vivid descriptions of terror, fear, and malice the speaker creates. However, there is a shift in tone as the metaphors also take on a new image. In a very clever metaphor, the speaker describes himself as a “rebel [who] fronts a king in state”, as if to say he is both a rebellious advocate for change but also a protector of our government and system of democracy. He feels safe “stand[ing] within [America’s] walls,” and he feels no anger towards his nation. “Time’s unerring hand” will most certainly do its job, as it has done throughout history; it will slowly change the United States to become more equal, fair, open, etc. These issues are insignificant in light of time and the power of the American people, and our speaker holds faith that this will bring change to the country that both saves him and seemingly seeks to destory him. A fascinating conflict of emotion that we all know far too well.


Poem Two: Pure at Heart by D.C.

I sat watching the freight ships pass the bay early this morning.

New York City, a beacon in economic and luxury standards.

And yet, I see nothing but dirt and grime here, a never-ending stain.

The streets are paved with gold, they said to me, and Oh! My foolishness

Which lead me to the cracked pavement and flooding sewers.

My foolishness leads me to this steel beam rocking chair, a crow’s nest.

It seems to be the world’s worst paradox, the heart of New York.

A busy city of everlasting inequity, that has set me free, free at last.

This heart of ambition and graceless attitude has been freed.

My children, all seven daughters, have been set free.

Their little hearts, full of wonder and excitement, no longer resentment.

Oh, Lady Liberty, your heart is pure as gold! Shine on! Shine on!

Let your torch and stalwart openness remain driven by undying compassion for my people: wanderers, masses yearning to breathe free.

I see it now, the beauty of this city, the harbors, the sunrise in the water!

This has made my heart as pure as thine, emerald lady, clear as day.

A heart so clear, which ridicules porcelain plates, celebrates tempered glasses; we were meant to accept this heart of pure intentions, ever so ignorantly.

Guide me until I reach your level, a heart purer than 24 karat.


I hope you enjoyed the poems on this weeks publication! Look for more poems coming your way next Friday, and every Friday, right here on A Poem for Your Thoughts!