African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Countee Cullen, "A Thorn Forever In the Breast" (1927)

A Thorn Forever in the Breast
By Countee Cullen

A hungry cancer will not let him rest
Whose heart is loyal to the least of dreams;
There is a thorn forever in his breast
Who cannot take his world for what it seems.
Aloof and lonely must he ever walk,
Plying a strange and unaccustomed tongue,
An alien to the daily round of talk,
Mute when the sordid songs of earth are sung.

This is the certain end his dream achieves:
To sweat his blood and prayers while others sleep,
To shoulder his own coffin up the steep,
Incredulous summit that shapes his doom
Between two wretched dying men, of whom
One doubts, and one for pity’s sake believes.

Published in Opportunity, August, 1927

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