Claude McKay's Early Poetry (1911-1922): A Digital Collection

Birds of Prey (1920 version)

Their shadows dim the sunshine of our day,
As they go lumbering across the sky,
Squawking in joy of feeling safe on high,
Beating their heavy wings of owlish gray.
They scare the singing birds of earth away
As, greed-impelled, they circle threateningly,
Watching the toilers with malignant eye—
Birds of the darkness—human birds of prey,
They swoop down upon us in merciless might,
They fasten in our bleeding flesh their claws,
In citied places bathed in bright daylight,
And tugging and tearing without rest or pause,
They flap their hideous wings in wild delight,
And stuff our gory hearts into their maws.

(Workers Dreadnought. October 9, 1920. Signed as Hugh Hope)
(Edited and proofread by Amardeep Singh)

(Note: the version of this poem published in 1922 in Harlem Shadows has some slight changes. See that version here.)

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