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

Countee Cullen, "Portrait of a Lover" (1927)

Portrait of a Lover

WEARY, restless, now fever’s minion, furnace-hot,⁠
Now without reason shivering prey to some great dread;
Trusting, doubting, prone to reveal, yet wishing not
To name this malady whereby his wits are led,
Trapped in this labyrinth without a magic thread,
He gropes bewildered in a most familiar place;
It should be spring by all the signs and portents spread,
But four strong seasons wrangle on this lover’s face.

Of all men born he deems himself so much accurst,
His plight so piteous, his proper pain so rare,
The very bread he eats so dry, so fierce his thirst,
What shall we liken such a martyr to? Compare
Him to a man with poison raging in his throat,
And far away the one mind with an antidote.