African American Poetry (1870-1927): A Digital AnthologyMain MenuFull Text Collection: Books Published by African American Poets, 1870-1927Author Pages: Bios and Full Text CollectionsAreas of Interest: Topics and ThemesThe Beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance: Overview and Timeline of Key EventsBlack Poetry Before the Harlem Renaissance: Overview and TimelinePeriodicals: African American Poetry Published in MagazinesAfrican American Poetry: Anthologies of the 1920sExploring Datasets related to African American poetryAbout This Site: Origins and a Mission StatementFurther Reading / Works CitedAmardeep Singhc185e79df2fca428277052b90841c4aba30044e1
MY SPIRIT is a pestilential city, With misery triumphant everywhere, Glutted with baffled hopes and lost to pity; Strange agonies make quiet lodgment there. Its bursting sewers ooze up from below, And spread their loathsome substance through its lanes, Flooding all areas with their evil flow, And blocking all the motion of its veins. Its life is sealed to love or hope or pity; My spirit is a pestilential city.
Above its walls the air is heavy-wet, Brooding in fever mood and hanging thick Round empty tower and broken minaret, Settling upon the tree-tops stricken sick And withered in its dank contagious breath; Their leaves are shrivelled silver, parched decay, Like wilting creepers trailing underneath The chalky yellow of a tropic way. Round crumbling tower and leaning minaret, The air hangs fever-filled and heavy-wet.
And all its many fountains no more spurt; Within the dammed-up tubes they tide and foam Around the drifting sludge and silted dirt, And weep against the soft and liquid loam, And so the city's ways are washed no more; All is neglected and decayed within. Clean waters beat against its high-walled shore In furious force, but cannot enter in. The suffocated fountains cannot spurt; They foam and weep against the silted dirt.
Beneath the ebon gloom of mounting rocks The little pools lie poisonously still. And birds come to the edge in forlorn flocks, And utter sudden plaintive notes and shrill, Pecking at fatty grey-green substances; But never do they dip their bills and drink. They twitter sad, beneath the mournful trees, And fretfully flit to and from the brink, In little dull brown, green-and-purple flocks, Beneath the jet-gloom of the mounting rocks.
And green-eyed moths of curious design, With gold-black wings and brightly silver-dotted, On nests of flowers among those rocks recline Bold, burning blossoms, strangely leopard-spotted, But breathing deadly poison at the lips. Oh, every lovely moth that wanders by, And on the blossoms fatal nectar sips, Is doomed in drooping stupor there to die All green-eyed moths of curious design That on the fiercely-burning rocks recline.
Oh cold as death is all the loveliness That breathes out of the strangeness of the scene, And sickening like a skeleton's caress, With clammy clinging fingers, long and lean. Above it float a host of yellow flies, Circling in changeless motion in their place, Snow-thick and mucid in the drooping skies, Swarming across the glassy floor of space. Oh cold as death is all the loveliness And sickening like a skeleton's caress.
There was a time when, happy with the birds, The little children clapped their hands and laughed; And midst the clouds the glad winds heard their words, And blew down all the merry ways to waft Their music to the scented fields of flowers. Oh sweet were children's voices in those days, Before the fall of pestilential showers, That drove them forth from all the city's ways. Now never, never more their silver words Will mingle with the golden of the birds.
Gone, gone forever the familiar forms To which my spirit once so dearly clung, Blown worlds beyond by the destroying storms, And lost away like lovely songs unsung. Yet life still lingers, questioningly strange, Timid and quivering, naked and alone, Biding the cycle of disruptive change, Though all the fond familiar forms are gone Forever gone, the fond familiar forms, Blown worlds beyond by the destroying storms.